Despite key losses, Bulldogs aim high

Lots of talented, versatile players at the skill positions
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Gone are the team’s leading passer and rusher, top two receivers, two all-league linemen and their top-four tacklers from a year ago, so why all the optimism coming from Folsom High’s football program? Because the Bulldogs have got a slew of talented kids to move into those vacated positions. Despite the loss of quarterback David Graves, wide receivers Andrew Benavides and Brandon Babineaux, linemen Sal D’Angelo and Justin Peterson and linebacker Jared Trainor, among others, the Bulldogs are stacked with skill players as they hope to put up some more big offensive numbers on their way to a long playoff run. The first and biggest question for the Bulldogs to answer is who will replace Graves, last year’s Delta River League’s Most Valuable Player who passed for 2,771 yards and 40 touchdowns and rushed for another 696 yards. As of last week, Graves’ brother, Dano, a junior, and Tanner Trosin, a sophomore, were in a battle for the starting job. Coach Kris Richardson said he doesn’t expect either player to put up the numbers Graves did last year, but he said both are good quarterbacks who can run the offense. “It’s down to a two-man race,” Richardson said prior to the team’s first and only scrimmage last Thursday against El Camino and Union Mine. “I’m hoping a clear cut winner comes out of the scrimmage, but if not, we’ve got two good quarterbacks and I’d be comfortable playing either one. There’s nothing wrong with having more than one good quarterback.” By now, Richardson has likely chosen a starter for Thursday’s season-opening game against Davis, but he likely had a tough decision. “Dano, if he has an edge on Tanner, it’s in the run game,” Richardson said. “He’s an amazing runner in the open field. He’s tough to bring down. Tanner is slightly taller than Dano and is a bit of a gunslinger, sort of like Dave was when he was a sophomore. He stands in the pocket and he can sling it, and he’s no slouch in the run game either.” Mike Metildi, the starting left tackle and one of the team’s captains, said he doesn’t care who starts. “There’s not a big difference between the two of them and both are very good players,” Metildi said. “They’re both great leaders and are in command out there. I’m very comfortable and confident with both of them.” Graves said he’s pleased with his performance while competing for the job. “I feel I’ve done well,” Graves said. “I’ve been playing with all these guys since I was 9 years old. I’m a captain, one of the leaders on the team and I can run this team.” Tanner has also enjoyed competing for the starting role. “Dano and I are friends and it’s been a good competition,” Trosin said. “I think I’ve done a good job in practice. I bring energy and enthusiasm, I can throw the ball and I’m a good leader.” Richardson said even though they lost a lot of statistics when Graves graduated, the offense should be just as good this year. “I don’t think either guy is going to put up numbers like Dave, but I think our total offense will be up there where we were last year as well as our point total. Our scoring will be more spread out this year.” Unlike the quarterback position, there is no question as to who will replace Benavides at one slot receiver. Tyler Trosin moves from running back to the slot. “Tyler has a chance to surpass the numbers Andrew put up last year,” Richardson said. “He may not be as quick as Andrew, but he’s faster. There will certainly be no drop off, and I think he can be one of the top receivers in the area.” Jordan Richards returns in the other slot receiver position, while Kori Babineaux replaces his brother at one outside receiver. Replacing Dano Graves at the other outside receiver will be either be Mac Carlsen, Spencer Hodson or Troy Watson. In the backfield, Burton Dekoning, a transfer from Bella Vista, is the starter. Richards and Joe Gray can also play the position. As of last week, Richardson was waiting on a decision from the Sac-Joaquin Section office on Dekoning’s eligibility. “If he’s eligible, and I think he will be, he’s going to be a good one,” Richardson said. “He’s one of the fastest players on the team and he’s also a quarterback. That’s one of the beauties of this offense. With the formations we have, we’ve got a lot of players who can do a lot of things.” Joining Metildi on the offensive line will be Chris Page, Stephen Sippel, Kenny Enstrom and Tucker Kearney. Enstrom is currently battling a knee injury and might be out of the lineup for a while. If that’s the case, Richardson said Sam Lueken, Kyle Kelley and Gage Steele are in the rotation to replace him. Defensively, Folsom’s strength lies in the secondary where Babineaux and Richards return at cornerback and Tyler Trosin is at safety. They’ve also got decent depth with Watson, Carlsen and Tyler Mathis. Dekoning and Dillon Wessing are starters at outside linebacker, while Lueken and Dan Curry are the starters inside. Alex Wood will likely see significant playing time at linebacker as well. Up front, Sippel and Metildi will start at end with Kearney, Josh Fehling and Jordan Boeck fighting for playing time. Andrew Bjorklund and Mitch O’Connor are starters inside with Alec Grodecki, Deondre Bottoms in the mix. Richardson said the emphasis all summer was to improve the team’s run defense and he feels the team will be better in that critical area. “We added some run blitzes and made a few adjustments that worked well at camp, so I think we’re going to be better at stopping the run this year,” Richardson said. The Bulldogs believe they can certainly get as far as they did last year, which was the first round of the playoffs. This year, however, they really want to win the Delta River League so they have a home playoff game. Anything less than a deep playoff run would be a disappointment, especially after losing in the first round last year after a 9-1 regular season record. “We’ve got to stay healthy, get better every week, stay focused and we have to be better against stopping the run,” Richardson said.