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Bulldogs claim fourth straight section title, defeat Elk Grove 35-27

By: Matt Long of the Telegraph
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Not much gets by Troy Taylor.

The cerebral football coach at Folsom High is thinking the game much of his waking hours and he figured he and co-head coach Kris Richardson’s undefeated Bulldogs might need an extra advantage to defeat Elk Grove in Saturday’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship game.

After all, both teams had identical 13-0 records and with a section title up for the grabs, it was anyone’s game to win.

So Taylor felt the onside kick, if well kicked with a lucky bounce, could find its way into a bulldog’s hands and give the team and extra possession that might be the difference in the game.

Folsom claimed its fourth straight section championship Saturday at Sac State, defeating Elk Grove 35-27, winning the one possession game by eight points. The Bulldogs’ offense had the ball 10 times in the game, Elk Grove, nine. Why? Folsom attempted three onside kicks, and was fortunate to recover one of them to earn the extra possession.

“Elk Grove has a powerful offense and I knew they’d be tough to stop, so I thought maybe if we could steal a possession that could make the difference in the game,” Taylor said.

Up steps Folsom freshman Bryce Buck, playing in his first varsity football game. Buck spent the season on the freshman team, but was asked to come out last week to kick with the team. Buck spent most of the week working on onside kicks. The two he kicked Saturday against Elk Grove were beauties. Elk Grove grabbed the first after Folsom tied the game at seven with a Jake Jeffrey-to-Christian Huber touchdown pass. The Herd earned a short field, but eventually missed a field goal.

After Tre Green scored on a five-yard run early in the second quarter to put Folsom up 14-7, Buck kicked another and this time Drake Stallworth recovered it at the Herd 46-yard line. Five plays later, Jeffrey hooked up with Stallworth on an 18-yard screen pass for another touchdown and the extra possession paid off, giving Folsom a 21-7 lead.

“I’ve been practicing onside kicks all season,” said Buck, who said the freshman team attempted four and five and recovered three of them. “It felt pretty good to play a role in the win. After we recovered the kick I wasn’t even thinking, I was just in the moment.”

The teams split a pair of touchdowns the rest of the half, as Stallworth’s second touchdown catch from Jeffrey, this one from 14 yards, put the Bulldogs up 28-14 at halftime.

The Herd came back strong in the third quarter, scoring twice to narrow the gap to 28-27, as a missed extra point kept them from tying the game.

Roger Neal scored a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter on a six-yard run to put Folsom in front 35-27. From there, the Bulldogs’ defense stepped up and made the big play when they needed it.

On Elk Grove’s next possession, the Herd faced a fourth-and-11 and Jonah Williams caused Elk Grove quarterback Jayden Machado to fumble, which Ariel Ngata recovered to end the drive on the Folsom 46-yard-line with 7:35 to play.

Jeffrey had Eric Davis for a touchdown pass on the next play that would have iced the game, but Davis couldn’t hold onto the pass and it was picked off by Julius Fullah.

After the Herd converted a fourth-and-17 from midfield to extend the ensuing drive, they later found themselves in a fourth-and-nine situation at the Folsom 28. Machado complete a pass to Gavin Reinwald, but it was a yard short and Folsom took over possession of the ball and ran the clock out to win the game.

“It came down to our resilience,” Williams said. “We made our mistakes, but it’s this team’s belief in itself and us playing together that allowed us to win.”

Jeffrey added, “I obviously made some mistakes with a couple interceptions, but this was a team win. We’ve shown all year we come out and fight and stay with it.”