The Greatest Show on Turf is bracing for the Big Green Machine.
That's the promotional twist for tonight's game between Folsom, led by record-setting quarterback Jake Browning, and De La Salle, the national power dressed in green that methodically grinds teams with machine-like efficiency, in one of the most significant high school sporting events in Sacramento-area history.
A full house of more than 20,000 at Sacramento State's Hornet Stadium is expected for the first Northern California Regional Open showdown.
Beyond deciding who advances to the CIF State Open Bowl next weekend in Carson, tonight's game trumps other high school events simply because De La Salle is involved, making it bigger even than Grant topping nationally ranked No. 2 Long Beach Poly for the first State Open championship in 2008 or Folsom avenging its only loss against Grant before an overflow crowd at Sac State for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship in 2010 en route to a State Bowl win.
Folsom (14-0) is ranked third in the state by Cal-Hi Sports and second in Northern California by MaxPreps. De La Salle (13-0) is No. 1 in the state, has finished as the state's top-ranked team by Cal-Hi 16 times since the late 1980s and won the last three State Open titles. The Spartans have not lost to a Northern California opponent since 1991, a span of 237 games.
So imagine the rewards if Folsom wins.
"I'm not sure if it's just Folsom that wants to beat us or all of Sacramento," De La Salle athletic director Leo Lopoz said this week. "Someone will beat us some day. It's inevitable. We're not naive."
The Bulldogs relish the opportunity to be that team. Browning has passed for 61 touchdowns and nearly 5,000 yards, and De La Salle has a fast, spirited defense waiting for him.
Folsom co-coach Kris Richardson said he never hesitated in his desire to face De La Salle.
"From the moment I woke up on Sunday, I've heard it 'It's too bad you've got to play De La Salle,' " Richardson said. "We're 14-0. We're section champs. We're playing De La Salle in the Open game, which tells us that we're one of the two best teams in Northern California. How is that bad? It's a great opportunity, and we're excited."
Sacramento-area teams have been eager for a chance to play De La Salle for decades.
The Spartans are 4-0 against Sacramento-area teams (39-7 over El Camino in 1987, 24-7 over Valley in 1988, 48-14 over Nevada Union in 1997 and 48-13 over Nevada Union in 1998) and 31-0 against Sac-Joaquin Section teams since Bob Ladouceur became coach in 1979. And Ladouceur is 317-5-2 against Northern California teams since 1984.
"It's always funny to me when Sacramento people seem to complain that their teams always are in the shadow of De La Salle," Mark Tennis, editor of Cal-Hi Sports, said. "It's funny because De La Salle casts a shadow over the entire state. It's not a Sacto vs. Bay Area lack-of-respect deal. De La Salle football has just been that good for so long against everybody."
De La Salle defensive coordinator Terry Eidson said his team is excited to compete in Sacramento for the first time.
"It's unfortunate a great team won't be going to the state bowls," Eidson said, "but in terms of fan excitement and the gala of high school football, you can't beat it."