Championship games aside, if there’s one game a team wants to play well it’s against their rival.
Folsom did just that and more on Friday night against Oak Ridge. Not only did the Bulldogs win big, 62-6, but they did it with flair. Two impressive one-handed catches, one for a touchdown and another for an interception, a highlight-reel touchdown run, a hook and lateral play that went for a score, as well as a reverse option pass that went for another score, Folsom made plays that could fill a 60-second highlight segment on ESPN. All in the night’s work for the Bulldogs, who didn’t celebrate the plays any more than necessary.
“Every week we want to get our guys in space and let them do their thing,” Folsom coach Kris Richardson said. “With Joe (Ngata) and Elijhah (Badger) on the outside, we can really stretch teams both vertically and horizontally. We have Parker and CJ working the inside of the field, and once we open teams to all that, then we’ve got Daniyel making highlight-reel runs to the end zone.”
Folsom’s first-team offense scored touchdowns on all nine of its possession, eight coming in the first half when Folsom worked up a 55-6 lead at halftime. The scoring started with the second play from scrimmage, as Kaiden Bennett (19-of-22 for 386 yards, 6 TDs) threw a 67-yard pass to Parker Clayton. Of Folsom’s nine touchdowns, six came from at least 35 yards out, as the big play was a huge part of their plan.
“The way Oak Ridge lined up, it was just a good night to go deep,” Bennett said. “The deep throw was there.”
Said Richardson, “We know Oak Ridge likes to put six in the box to take away the run and play cover 1 and we’re OK with that. Any team that does that better be getting to the quarterback. We felt we had mismatches everywhere.”
Bennett routinely went deep, as his statistics show. His 19 completions for 386 yards average to 20 yards per pass completion.
Folsom’s second score was a pass from Bennett to Joe Ngata (6 catches, 98 yards), who pitched the ball back to Daniyel, who finished the scoring play by taking it into the end zone for a 39-yard touchdown. Badger (138 receiving yards, 3 TDs) then hauled in a 35-yard touchdown from Bennett, and after the first of two interceptions from Caleb Nelson, Bennett scored on a three-yard run, as the Bulldogs led 28-0 after the first quarter.
Oak Ridge managed its only score in the beginning of the second quarter, as quarterback Matt Jenner found Sawyer Merrill for a 17-yard touchdown pass. It was the only highlight for the Trojans, and it was a play they could barely enjoy. On the next play from scrimmage, Daniyel Ngata took a handoff from Bennett and sprinted 69 yards untouched for another touchdown.
Badger’s number was called again on the next series, as Bennett lofted a high, long pass that looked to be overthrown. Instead, Badger ran underneath it and caught it with his left hand under tight coverage from Merrill for a 46-yard touchdown catch.
“I thought I could get to it,” Badger said. “I was just jogging at first and then I just sped up. It felt good to have a good night.”
Badger wasn’t done. On the next series, he caught a 55-yard touchdown from Joe Ngata.
“Elijhah is very similar to Joe and that’s that they both make plays,” Bennett said. “They’re big receivers, and what Elijhah does is that he makes people miss. That’s what I like about him.”
Folsom’s final touchdown of the half was set up by a one-handed interception from Nelson. The scoring play was a 22-yard run by Daniyel Ngata. It looked like Ngata would only gain a few yards before being forced out of bounds, but Ngata made several cuts, evaded defenders and broke tackles on his way for a magnificent touchdown run.
“Daniyel has great vision,” Folsom center Kaden Richardson said. “He had a lot of blocks downfield and the receivers were blocking for him. He gives the offensive line confidence because he makes us look good. We might have to hook a guy on a given play, but we don’t do it, but he still makes a great run and makes us look good.”
Folsom’s final score was a touchdown pass from Bennett to CJ Hutton early in the third quarter. As the final score indicates, it was a long night for the Trojans. Preventing the big play was one of the goals coming into the game, but they weren’t successful in doing so.
“We didn’t do a good job of that,” Oak Ridge coach Eric Cavaliere said. “This is probably the most explosive Folsom team. They’re incredibly talented, and they do a good job of getting the ball to the right match-up.”