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It doesn’t get any easier for Del Oro

By: Eric J. Gourley, Journal Sports Writer
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FOLSOM — Standing a mere 5-foot-10 and weighing only 175 pounds, Dano Graves resembles a cornerback more than a quarterback. Yet the Folsom High junior has been beyond stellar in his first fall behind center for the Bulldogs, running their high-octane spread offense with unparalleled efficiency. Graves has thrown a state-best 49 touchdown passes. Of the 11 quarterbacks statewide who have reached the 3,000-yard passing plateau this season, Graves is one of only two with a completion percentage better than 70. His spectacular 75.6 percent mark is tops in the state. Graves completed a career-high 29 passes in Folsom’s 42-28 win over Granite Bay in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division II quarterfinal last week. He threw for 293 yards and four touchdowns — a nominal performance by his standards, but one that pushed him over 3,500 on the year. “They’re very, very, very good offensively,” Granite Bay head coach Ernie Cooper said of the Bulldogs, who torched the Grizzlies for the most points since a 48-47 loss at Vacaville on Sept. 23, 2005. “Graves is very accurate. We had seen that throughout all the film we had watched. He’s the one that makes their whole offense work, there’s no doubt about it.” Graves looks to make a believer out of another veteran Sierra Foothill League coach Friday night when Casey Taylor brings No. 8 Del Oro to Folsom for a semifinal showdown. “It’s going to be a great game,” Graves said. “It’s going to be the team that has fewer mistakes and less turnovers that’s going to advance.” Called up to varsity last year as a sophomore wide receiver, Graves spent eight months competing for the starting quarterback job vacated by his graduated brother, David, who is redshirting at Hawaii. Graves wasn’t announced as the starter until the week of the Bulldogs’ season-opener. He’s played like a natural in the shoes of David, who led Folsom to only its second playoff appearance since 1995 last year. “I didn’t really plan any of this,” said Graves, who entered the season excited just to return to the play-calling role he’s enjoyed since he started playing football at age 9. “I didn’t know any of it was coming. I’ve been kind of surprised, but I don’t take any of it for granted.” College scouts apprehensive of Graves’ small stature have been drawn back by his mobility. He’s demonstrated an impressive talent for escaping from the pocket and making plays with his feet, rushing 105 times for 714 yards and an additional 11 touchdowns. “Just when you think you’ve got him for zero gain or a loss of a yard or two he gets back to the line of scrimmage or gets two, three, four, even five yards on you,” Cooper said. “He can scramble. He’s a good player. I was very impressed. He’s a handful for anybody.”