Granite Bay-Folsom: A titan against a titan
Friday's Granite Bay-Folsom football clash has had people talking since — well, since this game was scheduled, mostly because these are two of the top programs in the greater Sacramento area.
Granite Bay is coming off its first CIF state title and is a five-time Sac-Joaquin Section champion, including the last two in Division I, but is running second — a close second, to be sure — in most early season media polls to Folsom, which won a state crown in 2010 and has won two of its four section banners in the last three years.
“It’s last year’s best vs. this year’s best,” said Roseville resident Mike Finnerty of SureWest Sports Show fame. Finnerty, like most other sports media types in the area, plans to cover the game at Granite Bay, which is expected to sell out. “It’s big because it’s an unusual situation where last year’s state champion is taking on the team that could be this year’s state champion.”
Behind all the Xs and Os, game planning, prognostications, hype and anticipation is an interesting little fact about these teams: They’ve played only once, a 42-28 Folsom victory in the 2009 Division II section quarterfinals.
“We never could quite make it fit,” Folsom co-head coach Kris Richardson said Tuesday, speaking of himself and former Granite Bay skipper Ernie Cooper. “Me and Ernie have been talking for years. He’d send me an e-mail; we’d do the same. We’ve been at camps with each other from time to time, but the only game we played was that game in 2009.”
But finally, it happened — a regular-season game in 2013 and a dress rehearsal, as it turns out, for annual meetings to come when section realignment puts Folsom into the Sierra Foothill League in 2014.
As Richardson was building the Bulldogs’ schedule for this season, he was checking the CIF Web site seeking a road game in Week One (Folsom shares its stadium with Vista del Lago, which has turf rights Friday night against Highlands). He noticed Granite Bay had an opening for a home game on Sept. 6 and — voila!
“I sent (Cooper) an e-mail,” Richardson said. “It worked out perfect.”
What these two titans will bring to Granite Bay’s field Friday is no secret. Folsom quarterback Jake Browning passed for 5,248 yards and 63 touchdowns last season as a sophomore. He opened this season by completing 31 of 38 passes for 438 yards and seven scores in the Bulldogs’ 56-21 victory over Woodcreek last Friday. Browning completed passes to eight receivers, six of whom scored.
Meanwhile, Richardson hasn’t seen hide nor hair of Granite Bay, which didn’t play last week so there was no game film to exchange. Folsom played a scrimmage the same day Granite Bay scrimmaged Bella Vista. The Grizzlies then scrimmaged Jesuit on Folsom’s back-to-school night.
Then again, Richardson and the Bulldogs don’t need any stinkin’ old game film.
“It’s Granite Bay football. They’re gonna run the crap out of the fly sweep,” he said.
Yes, run the fly sweep the Grizzlies will. But, good luck stopping senior playmaker Tony Ellison, who piled up nearly 2,500 total yards last season, and same with junior linebacker Cameron Smith and the Granite Bay defense trying to stop Folsom’s air assault.
Finnerty said this early matchup is intriguing for two reasons.
“Folsom is this year’s clear top-notch team in our area until someone knocks them off,” he said. “The second thing is, more for Folsom, it’s one of those early testers where you see how good you are. They can say, ‘How good are we? How good is this team?’ ”
People wanted to talk about Granite Bay last week when Richardson was trying to keep his Bulldogs focused on Woodcreek. Finnerty, whose show has moved from the Internet to TV, will have all the highlights on next week’s show, which airs at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday on Comcast SportsNet California. Comcast will televise the game at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
“This is going to be a great thing,” Richardson said. “After this year, we’ll be in a league together. Hopefully, this is the start of a longtime rivalry that everyone enjoys being a part of.”
Now all that’s left is to play the darn game — finally. Skip Albano, who took over at Granite Bay after Cooper stepped down in June, had this one pegged on the first day of camp Aug. 12.
“It’s going to be a great game,” he said. “Two great programs in the area on a Friday night.”
FOLSOM AT GRANITE BAY
When/Where: 7 p.m. Friday at Granite Bay
TV: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Comcast
TV highlights: SureWest Sports Show, 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Comcast SportsNet California.