Elk Grove represents familiar opponent for BulldogsBy: Matt Long, Sports Editor
For the third straight year, Folsom will play for a Sac-Joaquin Section Division II football championship.
The Bulldogs defeated Grant to win it in 2010 and felt they let one get away last year when they lost to Vacaville. This year they face a familiar opponent in Elk Grove, who Folsom beat last year, 42-28, to reach the championship game. Game time is 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Sac State.
Elk Grove, 12-1 on the year and the No. 3 seed in the playoffs, has had a marvelous season, losing only to Franklin. The Herd is coming off a 35-32 win over Del Oro.
Folsom is coming off lop-sided wins over Vacaville and Buhach Colony the last two weeks, teams very similar to Elk Grove in the fact that they have incredible running games, but do little through the air.
Elk Grove presents a familiar type of opponent for the Bulldogs; the kind they’ve been dominating of late. Folsom’s last four opponents, Pleasant Grove, Atwater, Vacaville and Buhach Colony, combined to score 61 points against the Bulldogs, an average of 15 a game. Elk Grove will likely have some success on the ground, but more importantly, will have to find a way to score if they are to beat Folsom, who is averaging 46 points over that same span.
“Elk Grove has the best running back tandem we’ve seen all year and are probably the fastest defensive team we’ve seen,” Folsom coach Kris Richardson said. “With Robert Frazier and Wadus Parker, they like to run tosses and sweeps and get them in space, but they also like to run downhill and they throw some Wing-T type plays in there. They also have a fullback that ran for more than 100 yards against Del Oro.
“Defensively, they don’t have many big guys, but they can run as well as anybody and really do a good job of rallying to the football. It’s going to be a great challenge.”
Folsom 49, Buhach Colony 22
Bailey Laolagi scored four touchdowns, including one on an interception return, to lead Folsom to a 49-22 win over Buhach Colony on Friday night.
Laolagi, a sophomore playing like a senior, scored on a 14-yard pass reception from Jake Browning and on runs of 1 and 73 yards, along with an interception return of 85 yards for another score. He also had 11 tackles and a sack for good measure.
“It feels great,” Laolagi said of his four-touchdown performance. “The touchdowns were just the offensive line and wide receivers blocking for me. That was the main key. On the pick-six, I saw a guy going on the fly and I just stepped in and the team did a good job blocking for me.”
Folsom fell behind 6-0 on a pair of field goals on Buhach’s first two possessions, but took the lead for good on Laolagi’s first touchdown from Browning and extra point from Ben Trumm.
Buhach continually shot themselves in the foot throughout the night, failing to convert on fake punt on fourth-and-one and turning the ball over twice deep in Folsom’s territory when scoring opportunities were eminent. As they’ve done all season, the Bulldogs capitalized and quickly the rout was on.
Folsom added a second score on a 16-yard pass from Browning to Troy Knox to lead 14-6 before a key moment in the game.
Buhach faced a fourth-and-one on their own 44-yard line and despite gaining 77 yards on 15 carries up to that point of the game, decided to fake a punt rather than leave the offense on the field. The decision backfired, as a number of Bulldogs swarmed to the ball and smothered the upback who took the direct snap.
Two plays later after a 43-yard pass to Lucas Own, Laolagi scored from a yard out and Folsom led 21-6.
“That was a big play,” Folsom coach Kris Richardson said. “That play gave us great field position and momentum.”
That series seemed to take some of the steam out of the Thunder, who squandered scoring opportunities in Folsom’s defense end on their final two drives of the half and Folsom countered with 14 points.
On fourth-and-three from the Folsom 16, Buhach ran a pitch play left, but the ball carrier fumbled the ball and never had a chance to pick up the yardage needed to keep the drive alive. Folsom turned that miscue into a 10-yard TD run by Harry Lipnosky.
On their next drive, Buhach reached the Folsom 15 before Laolagi intercepted a pass and returned it for the score.
“Bailey is no sophomore; he’s a stud,” Richardson said. “He’s great in all aspects, offense, defense and he’s on every special team.”
The half ended with Folsom leading 35-6. Laolagi opened the second half with a 73-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage. Lipnosky ended Folsom’s scoring with an 11-yard run midway through the third quarter with Folsom leading 49-6.
The Bulldog defense, which has been stepping up each week, did so again on this night, holding a team averaging 43 points a game to six, if not for two late touchdowns in final five minutes of a blowout.
“It was an outstanding effort from the defense that’s getting better and better each week,” Folsom defensive coordinator Lou Baiz said. “They flat out whipped them.”
Derek Stiles made 14 tackles to lead the way, while Laolagi made 11. Quincy Capel and Devon Nooner made seven tackles and each had a sack.
The Bulldogs are looking forward to playing for a section championship Saturday.
“I’ve seen previous Folsom teams reach the section championship game and I’ve never had that experience,” Laolagi said. “It’s going to be a fun.”