De La Salle provides plenty of motivation for Bulldogs

By: Matt Long, Sports Editor
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How do you keep a team with 14 returning starters coming off a 16-0 season and a state championship motivated? Schedule De La Salle for the first game of the following season.

Kris Richardson began trying to find a way to get De La Salle on the schedule as early as November of last year. It wasn’t looking good at first, but eventually it worked out and Folsom will play one of the nation’s top high school program’s to kick off its season on Friday.

“With all the guys we knew we’d have coming back, I figured this might be the season for us to compete for a state championship, not last year,” Folsom coach Kris Richardson said. “I thought maybe we arrived a year early. A lot of things have to go right for you to win a state championship and a lot of things went right for us last year. I feel great about this De La Salle game. If there’s a way to motivate a team in the offseason this is it. We’re excited to go play them. They’ve been the best program in the country the past two decades.”

Folsom has faced De La Salle twice in 2012 and 2013 in state playoff games in which the winning team went on to play for a state open division championship. The Bulldogs lost both games in similar fashion and by similar scores, 49-15 and 45-17, respectively. De La Salle went on to win the open division state title in 2012, but lost it in 2013.

This year, coming off a state title with 14 returning starters, might be Folsom’s best chance of the three games to upset the Spartans. De La Salle is coming off an 11-2 season a year ago. They lost the open division title game to the state’s and nation’s top-ranked team, Mater Dei, 52-21.

“Jake (Browning) has told us stories about those games,” Folsom senior quarterback Kaiden Bennett said. “We know they’re well coached and a great team. Knowing the history of De La Salle, it’s exciting that we have a chance to win. We’re in a good place with the practices we’ve had and the game plan. It’s going to be a hard-fought game.”

Added receiver Joe Ngata, “It’s going to be a fun game, a good game. We know they have a lot of talent and good coaching. It will be a real test of our knowledge, toughness and resilience. I think we’re going to have a lot of fans there. It’s going to be crazy.”

Win or lose, Richardson is excited for the game.

“I don’t see any negative to this game,” Richardson said. “It’s a great test between two of the best teams in Northern California over the last 10 years. If you win, big deal. If you lose, you still have to come back and be ready for Jesuit. There are nine other games to win before you can start thinking about the postseason and possibly playing for a state championship.”

Richardson downplayed the significance of a win. If the Bulldogs were to pull the upset, it would be the first time the Spartans lost to a team from Northern California since 1991, a span of 289 games. Win or lose, though, the Bulldogs must put the game in the review mirror, as Jesuit has been waiting since the Division I semifinals last year to get another shot at beating the Bulldogs. The Marauders come to Folsom on Aug. 24 for the Bulldogs’ home opener.

Oak Ridge coach Eric Cavaliere has a lot of respect for his rivals in Folsom, and admitted he’s pulling for the Bulldogs.

“Folsom has a chance to beat De La Salle, and if they do, it would be great for the Sierra Foothill League and great for football in the Sacramento area,” Cavaliere said.