Line play will decide how far Folsom goes

By: Matt Long of the Telegraph
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Folsom opens the 2016 season the same way it did in 2015; with a new quarterback under center.

The football community wondered early last year how the Bulldogs would do without Jake Browning spraying the ball around the field and his replacement, Jake Jeffrey, answered that question very quickly, as the Bulldogs had another great season, going 14-1 and winning a fourth straight Sac-Joaquin Section championship.

This year, Jeffrey will be replaced by Joe Curry, his backup a year ago. Chances are the Bulldogs will be fine at that position. The same questions have been asked every year since David Graves quarterbacked the Bulldogs in 2008, how was the new guy going to be in comparison? Down the line, Dano Graves, Tanner Trosin, Jake Browning and Jake Jeffrey were just fine.

Likely the bigger question following the Bulldogs this season isn’t the effectiveness of Michalet or Curry, but how will the team’s offensive line be? Massive bookend tackles Jonah Williams and Kooper Richardson are gone, as is guard Josh Kim. The team returns Blake Christierson at center and Kaivan Khazeni, both 6 feet, 225 pounds, but Khazeni was battling injuries through the first few weeks of camp. The revamped line features sophomore David Ruiz (6-2, 260) at one tackle, junior Noah Lunday (6-2, 250) at the other with guards Justin Viega (Jr., 6-1, 230) and Dominic Langham (Sr., 6-0, 205).

“Our success this year comes down to how these guys perform,” Folsom High Coach Kris Richardson said. “It’s going to come down to protecting our quarterback and being able to run the football.”

Folsom has plenty of firepower at receiver with Drake Stallworth, Ariel Ngata, Eric Davis, Jack Sa, Brad Jenner, Joe Ngata, while Davin Simmons and Brandon Rupchock should do fine at running back.

Defensively, Richardson loves his linebackers (Ngata, Jenner, Simmons, Devon Serzynski) and defensive backs (Shawn Johnson, Stallworth, Rupchock, Tanner Ward, among others, along with Michalet when he gets the call. There are some question marks up front in terms of size, particularly against teams like Del Oro, a serious challenger in the Sierra Foothill League, who like to run the ball up the gut, but the defense should be able to hold its own, especially considering the firepower of the offense.

Ngata is confident in the defense.

“We’re not as big as in the past, but we’re fast,” said Ngata, who’s earned a scholarship to the University of Washington. “We’re also hard working and smart. I think we can do something special.”

“I think our defense has a chance to be fantastic,” Richardson said. “We’re a little undersized, but we’re pretty strong. The strength of the defense is our linebackers and secondary.”

If the offensive line comes together, Folsom will be a serious threat to win a third straight Sierra Foothill League title and a fifth straight Sac-Joaquin Section title.

“That’s definitely our goal every year,” Richardson said. “If we get better every day, Folsom football will be just like it has been the last few years. Staying healthy and improving every day are the keys. If we do that, I don’t know why we shouldn’t achieve our goals.”