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  • Paul Kitagaki Jr. /

    Paul Kitagaki Jr. Folsom co-head football coaches Kris Richardson, left, and Troy Taylor will lead the Bulldogs against Elk Grove on Saturday in the Sac-Joaquin Section D-II championship game.

  • Paul Kitagaki Jr. /

    Folsom sophomore quarterback Jake Browning has 4,763 passing yards and 58 touchdown passes in the Bulldogs' 13 wins this season.

  • Paul Kitagaki Jr. /

    Folsom co-head coaches Kris Richardson, left, and Troy Taylor run the Bulldogs' practice Tuesday. Richardson calls Taylor the best "offensive mind and play caller I've been around."

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Folsom has do's (spread 'em out) and don'ts (punt)

Published: Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Friday, Nov. 30, 2012 - 11:26 am

Kris Richardson and Troy Taylor bear the expressions of men mired in serious business.

With shaved heads and barks that could feather back the hair of any teenager, the co-head coaches at Folsom High School have the attention of their team – and soon, perhaps, the entire the state.

While Richardson and Taylor are both in their mid-40s, they're really kids at heart. They hustle about practice and along the sideline on game nights like boys showing off their new toys on Christmas morning, as if to say, "You think that was cool? Let's try this play!"

The Bulldogs have stormed to a 13-0 record with dizzying offensive numbers, a sound defense and a unique philosophy about fourth downs.

Folsom is ranked No. 2 in Northern California by entering Saturday's Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship game against Elk Grove. Should Folsom defeat the Thundering Herd, state No. 1 De La Salle of Concord likely looms in a NorCal Regional Open game at Sacramento State next week, presenting the ultimate challenge against the ultimate program. De La Salle hasn't lost to a NorCal foe since 1991 – 237 games ago.

"It's amazing what (Folsom has) done," said Tom Doherty, a former Folsom coach whose Bulldogs ran the ball between the tackles to section championships in 1989 and 1990. "Just amazing. But don't talk about punting, please."

Punt. It's the nastiest four-letter word used at Folsom, and those who dare utter it are liable to have their mouths washed out with soap.

The Bulldogs have punted five times this season.

"And five times, I was physically ill because we hate to punt," Taylor said. "We've done studies on it. It doesn't always make sense for us to punt. We'd get 19 yards net off a punt, so why do it? We feel like we can get first downs. We've converted more than 70 percent on fourth down. It works for us."

So does an offense that initially drew a lot of raised eyebrows and doubt. Folsom coaches over the years heard all the reasons why the spread wouldn't work. It's too fancy. You need better athletes. It won't fly in the rain, or the mud or against speedy teams.

Folsom squashed all critics in 2010 when it won the CIF State D-II title in the mud against nationally ranked Serra-Gardena. The Bulldogs first had to beat state-ranked No. 1 Grant in the D-II section finals that year.

"We tried going with the I-back, downhill, power-running game years ago, and we'd go 6-4, but it wasn't working for us," Richardson said. "So we went with something different. We said, 'Let's spread teams out.' Other teams want to try the spread, but you have to have the right players, and a great line, or your quarterback's going to really get hurt."

Richardson, a towering figure at 6-foot-7, was a tackle at the University of New Mexico in 1991 when the Lobos passed 40 times a game. He now works with an offensive line on pass-protection technique, knowing that to stall Folsom is to reach the passer, which few have done in 2012.

The Bulldogs' line of Josh Wormley, Mike D'Ottavio, Reed Garmsen, Dalton Bledsoe and Cody Creason take it personally if sophomore quarterback Jake Browning is touched. With 4,763 passing yards and 58 touchdown passes, Browning could become the second player in state history to eclipse 5,000 yards in a season. Former Folsom quarterback Tanner Trosin was the first to reach the milestone last season. And Browning is within reach of the state season mark of 63 touchdown passes. His targets include Troy Knox (90 catches, 1,107 yards, 13 touchdowns), Lucas Owan (1,195 yards, 10 TDs) and Phillip Carter (643 yards, 11 TDs).

"He's very accurate, very good – we're all impressed with Jake," said Carter, who also plays cornerback and is a defensive leader along with linemen Chaz Arnold and Quincy Capel and linebacker Derek Stiles. "Nothing rattles Jake."

Taylor is the play caller and offensive coordinator of Folsom's arsenal, and he spends hours breaking down film with Browning and friends.

Taylor has no regrets leaving his job in the Cal football radio booth and returning this season to Folsom, where he coached four seasons last decade. He said he's happy to be working with high school kids after considering other options.

"I've got tremendous peace in my life," said Taylor, a record-breaking quarterback at Cordova and Cal before embarking on a two-year career in the NFL. "I'm affecting young lives, coaching. There's purpose in what we're doing, and we're having fun. I might've been a head coach in college by now or interviewing for a job, but I chose this. I wanted a full life. I didn't want to sacrifice it, and I couldn't be happier."

Richardson said Taylor's return has rejuvenated him, saying: "I don't feel so worn out. This can be such a consuming job."

He calls Taylor the best "offensive mind and play caller I've been around."

The Bulldogs' varsity team isn't the only talk of the town. The freshman and junior varsity teams had dominating seasons, combining for an 18-2 record. Even the youth programs that wear the same red and blue and go by Bulldogs won championships this season. The youth players attend Folsom's games and look up to the varsity players as heroes.

A flood of junior Bulldogs are expected at Sac State to watch Saturday night, even in the wind and rain that is expected.

"Everything's going great right now," Richardson said. "It's like the perfect storm."

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