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  • HECTOR AMEZCUA / hamezcua@sacbee.com

    Folsom's Bailey Laolagi runs for a first down. He rushed for a touchdown and caught a touchdown pass, one of three thrown by sophomore Jake Browning.

  • Hector Amezcua / hamezcua@sacbee.com

    Elk Grove's Noah Letuligasenoa, left, tries to separate from Folsom's Hunter Hast. The Herd's wing-T attack never found its tempo.

Folsom tops Elk Grove for D-II section football championship

Published: Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012 - 10:46 am

The Folsom Bulldogs are a team for all seasons, all elements and all comers.

Enduring the best pass rush it has faced all season and sideways rain into their face masks from whipping winds at Sacramento State, the Bulldogs belted Elk Grove 44-18 Saturday night to win their second Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship in three seasons.

On the topic of all comers, Folsom (14-0) now likely braces for a new storm in the form of De La Salle, the decades-long national power from Concord in next Saturday's first Northern California Regional Open game at Sac State to decide who plays in the elite CIF State Bowl game Dec. 15 in Carson.

De La Salle (13-0) crushed Logan of Union City 52-7 for its record 21st consecutive North Coast Section D-I championship.

Those Spartans have not lost to a NorCal foe since 1991, a remarkable run of 234 games.

Folsom quarterback Jake Browning, a sophomore who has played beyond his years in this record-breaking season, passed for 205 yards and three touchdowns, and he had a one-yard scoring run.

Browning overcame a sluggish start in facing a quick, attacking Herd defense determined to throw him off his game with blitzes.

Browning's 61 touchdown passes are tied for the third most in state history for a season. The record is 63 by Robert De La Cruz. He set the mark in 1999 for Cathedral High of Los Angeles.

Browning could equal – or break – the record against the best defense Folsom will face, perhaps ever, in De La Salle. The Spartans will line up four Division I recruits against the Bulldogs.

Browning threaded nifty passes on over-the-shoulder strikes, proving gusty weather doesn't bother him, either. He hit Troy Knox for scoring strikes of eight and 51 yards and Bailey Laolagi for seven yards. Not bad for a program whose spread offense is still challenged by skeptics that suggest rain is best suited for power run teams.

"We hear that – 'Folsom's all glitz and glamour with the precise passing' – but we also have a tough-guy mentality, and we can trap you on run plays and run over you, and we can hit you on defense," Folsom co-coach Kris Richardson said last week. "We can do it all."

The Bulldogs did it all in 2010, too, in winning a state D-II title in the mud and muck. The trend continues as the Bulldogs just missed hitting their game average of 47 points.

Folsom took apart an Elk Grove (12-2) team that sought to avenge its playoff loss to Folsom last season that ended its season at 12-1.

Folsom has a running game this season to complement its passing game – and first-year starter Browning.

Laolagi ran for 72 yards and a 12-yard touchdown, and Harry Lipnosky went for 61. And the defense under coordinator Lou Baiz refused to let the vaunted Herd wing-T run game dictate any tempo. Wadus Parker rushed for 77 yards on eight carries.

The Bulldogs' defense has been anchored by linemen Chaz Arnold and Quincy Capel, linebacker Derek Stiles and defensive back Phillip Carter, who had an interception. Still, for all the offensive firepower and defensive clout this season, Folsom coaches are blown away by how fast this group jelled.

"The expectations are there, and it's fun and exciting, and we thought we'd be pretty good, but we knew we were young and inexperienced," Richardson said. "We thought we'd be in the mix. We got off to such a great start this season, then got that momentum. The kids all bought into the weight training, the system, everything."

Elk Grove will return a lot of talent, including Parker and quarterback Tommy Arnold, for a title run next season.

"Folsom is a complete team, a fantastic offense and an underrated defense," Herd coach Chris Nixon said. "Browning is a special talent. I don't know if I've seen a better sophomore quarterback."

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Joe Davidson



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