Folsom looks for second round and more in football playoffs
Defensive coaches can’t figure them out, opponents hate playing them, and the hometown crowd loves watching them catch fire. They are the Folsom Bulldogs, one of Northern California’s most explosive football teams.
Yet despite a 9-1 record and a No. 4 ranking in the Sac-Joaquin Section by MaxPreps.com, the Bulldogs aren’t primed to make a run at the Division I section title this season. They’ve been dropped to the Division II bracket (due to enrollment and a new section playoff structure), with a No. 4 seed, hoping to simply make it past the first round.
“It’s definitely a tough road through the Division II playoffs,” Folsom coach Kris Richardson said. “But if we continue to execute on offense, don’t turn the ball over, and play good run defense, we have as good a shot as anyone.”
While Folsom has had no trouble succeeding in the regular season, which is evident in its 18-2 combined record the last two years, the postseason has been a struggle the last three years. Last season, the Bulldogs were matched up with a tough Napa squad and lost a first round matchup, 45-42. In the 2006 season, Folsom lost starting quarterback Cary Grossart in the first quarter to injury and fell to Elk Grove, 54-10. Folsom failed to qualify for the playoffs in 2007 because of a narrow loss to Pleasant Grove and a switch in league representatives in the bracket.
This season Folsom looked as good as ever, though, with only one point separating the Bulldogs from a perfect regular season finish. The single loss, a 22-21 defeat at home against Monterey Trail on Oct. 23, could actually be the reason Folsom moves on this year.
“The loss to Monterey Trail was a tough one,” Richardson said. “Being a two-point conversion in OT away from being 10-0 still stings. It has definitely been a motivator the last part of the season.”
The Bulldogs hope the motivation continues into the postseason. The same thing happened to Folsom last year, as the Bulldogs, behind now Division I college quarterback David Graves, were primed to finish 10-0 on the regular season, only to fall to Pleasant Grove 35-33 on Nov. 7. The loss put Folsom up against Napa in Round 1 of the playoffs, and the rest is history.
And that’s what it will stay: history. The woes of the past could be just that, as a new crop of Bulldogs sprung from underclassmen in waiting to knights in shining armor this year. Graves’ younger brother, Dano, stepped into his older sibling’s shoes brilliantly this season as a junior quarterback, averaging 386.9 total yards per game, according to MaxPreps.com. With nearly 3,000 yards, 40 touchdowns and only six interceptions passing, he’s been an overwhelming force under center. But it’s his 583 yards and nine touchdowns rushing that make him a real threat every time he touches the ball.
Graves is just one of several new faces stepping in to make this year’s crop of Bulldogs nearly unstoppable. Receivers Tyler Trosin (1,130 yards and 19 touchdowns), Kori Babineaux (823 yards and 12 touchdowns) and Jordan Richards (15 total touchdowns) have all benefitted from a system geared towards lighting up the scoreboard.
“Now that we have an established system that our guys have been running since they were freshmen, we just keep reloading,” Richardson said. “We have great players at the skill positions and a very smart and agile offensive line. Replacing a guy like David Graves is very difficult, but if you have to replace a guy like him why not do it with his little brother?”
“Dano has had an amazing year,” Richardson added about the Delta River League’s MVP this season. “Where Dave was a pure quarterback, Dano is a pure playmaker. He can do it all. (He) throws with great accuracy, runs like an all star tailback, and has an amazing understanding of our offense.”
Folsom gets to feast on 4-6 Woodcreek in Round 1 on Friday, nearly ensuring its exit from first round playoff purgatory. If their offense can do anything similar to what it did all season long, the Bulldogs may be playing into December.
“With the way we score points, we feel we can compete with anyone,” Richardson said.