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  • Matt Jimison, Vista del Lago High School

  • Jake Browning, Folsom High School

  • Jason Samuels, Oak Ridge High School

Hometown Report: Life's nifty for three football teams on Highway 50

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013 - 8:06 pm

The Highway 50 corridor has become a championship expressway this high school football season.

Folsom, 13-0, is averaging 47.1 points and going for its second Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship in three seasons.

Vista del Lago, a six-year-old campus across town, is 12-1, averaging 42.6 points and playing for a section title for the first time.

Some eight miles to the east, Oak Ridge, also 12-1 and averaging 33.3 points, is preparing to face defending Division I champion Granite Bay.

Folsom, Oak Ridge and Vista, led by hot quarterbacks and playmaking defenses, have a combined 32-game winning streak.

What gives? Is there some sort of feel-good tonic flowing through those water fountains?

"There is something special going on," Vista coach Chris Jones said. "The quality of football is excellent with great players and good coaching, and that's a neat thing to watch. I just know it's been fun but tiring. I've aged a lot."

The programs are interwoven, with each challenging the other. And make no mistake: Each badly wants to outdo the other and be the King of 50.

This week, however, the mood changes a bit, with the schools pulling for each other. The teams that become Division I, II and III section champions will go up against Bay Area heavyweights in NorCal Regional games next weekend to decide CIF State Bowl berths.

And the Highway 50 trio's résumés have been enhanced by one another.

Folsom is the only team to defeat Oak Ridge (49-21 on Oct. 5), and Oak Ridge is the only team to beat Vista (42-6 in a season opener in August).

Coaches at Oak Ridge and Vista say those humbling losses forced them to regroup, and players who grumped their way through those postgame handshake lines now can thank the losses for wake-up calls.

But, wait, there's more to this saga.

Jones won three section championships at Oak Ridge before starting Vista's program, knowing he'd be in the shadows of decades-old Oak Ridge and Folsom.

Jones said he enjoys playing Oak Ridge each season and he'd like to play Folsom, too, especially since the teams share Folsom's stadium. That game remains a work in progress.

Following the loss to Oak Ridge, Jones went with sophomore quarterback Matt Jimison "and we've been in a new gear ever since," he said.

Jimison alternated series with Jake Browning when they led Folsom's freshman team to a 8-0 record last fall, but he transferred to Vista and has passed for 2,490 yards and 37 touchdowns, top-notch numbers for any age or program.

Browning, meanwhile, has settled in as the latest quarterback ace for Folsom. His 4,763 passing yards are the fourth most in state history for a season, according to the Cal-Hi Sports records. The only quarterback in state history to pass for 5,000 yards is Tanner Trosin last season – for Folsom, of course. Browning, who has a state-best 58 touchdown passes – could join him Saturday.

Browning, as modest as he is accurate, said the only number that wows him is his team's 13-0 record.

"We had four guys competing for the quarterback job, and to think I'd win the job is crazy," Browning said.

It might have been five competing for the starting job if Jason Samuels, who played youth football in Folsom, hadn't moved east to El Dorado Hills.

Samuels, a senior at Oak Ridge, also has put up big numbers, passing for 2,290 yards and 26 touchdowns. The number that could land him a college scholarship, however, is his 4.0 grade-point average.

Samuels' cousin, K.J. Carta-Samuels, is the quarterback for Bellarmine Prep of San Jose, which could face the Oak Ridge-Granite Bay winner in a NorCal game.

Each of the Highway 50 coaches insists he wouldn't trade his quarterback for anyone – or even for a season's worth of new gear and blocking sleds.

Said Folsom co-coach Troy Taylor: "I think we're all pretty happy with what we have."

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