New season, new field, renewed hope of a championship.
Folsom High School kicked off football practice last week by breaking in its new blue field turf that replaced a worn-out 10-year-old green version. With the way the Bulldogs have zipped up and down the terrain in recent years running their spread-option attack, the "Greatest Show on Turf" reduced their digs to something of a vapor trail of tiny rubberized pellets that were left in the dust like so many opponents.
Expect more of the same this season. With eight starters returning from the region's most prolific attack, Folsom starts this season as The Bee's top-ranked team.
Folsom finished the 2010 season ranked No. 1 after winning the CIF State Division II championship. The Bulldogs also finished atop The Bee rankings last season with a 14-1 record, their only loss coming to national No. 1 De La Salle of Concord 49-15 in the Northern California Open Bowl at Sacramento State.
"We learned from that game, what it takes to get there, how to get better, and we'll respond," Folsom co-coach Kris Richardson said.
Co-coach Troy Taylor agreed, saying, "You can only improve from an experience like that."
De La Salle begins the season ranked No. 1 nationally by MaxPreps. Folsom is No. 19.
Folsom returns 2012 Bee Offensive Player of the Year Jake Browning, who passed for 5,248 yards and 63 touchdowns as a sophomore.
Granite Bay is ranked No. 2 in the area by The Bee, returning players on a defense that keyed a D-I state championship under Ernie Cooper, who has since retired and was replaced by Skip Albano.
The Grizzlies return fly back Tony Ellison, who also will play on a defense anchored by linebackers Cameron Smith and Dylan Keeney and defensive back Luke Bussey. Granite Bay opens against Folsom on Sept. 6.
Elk Grove, coming off successive 12-win seasons, is No. 3, led by running back Wadus Parker (1,373 yards, 24 touchdowns) and three-year starting quarterback Tommy Arnold.
Del Oro, which rallied after a slow start in 2012 to reach the Sac-Joaquin Section D-II semifinals, is No. 4. The Golden Eagles scrimmage Elk Grove, which beat Del Oro in the semifinals last season, Saturday night. The Golden Eagles, with two section titles and a state bowl berth since 2010, must replace Bee Player of the Year Brandon Monroe, now at San Jose State.
Coach Casey Taylor said it helps that he has his best offensive line in his 12 years in Loomis. Del Oro, never one to shy from rigorous scheduling, plays at De La Salle on Sept. 20.
Fifth-ranked Pleasant Grove travels to No. 6 Rocklin on Aug. 30 for a season opener. Pleasant Grove returns 12 starters, including quarterback Dre Terrell and wide receiver Wyatt Demps. Rocklin brings back quarterback Logan Webb and a strong defense that scrimmages Folsom on Saturday.
Seventh-ranked Oak Ridge opens against No. 10 Vista del Lago. No. 8 Burbank, which had its 12-1 season end against Oak Ridge in a playoff semifinal, fields one of the quickest teams in the section. The Titans play Pleasant Grove on Sept. 6.
Grant is No. 9, its lowest preseason ranking since being unranked in 1991, Mike Alberghini's first year as head coach. Alberghini has his youngest team ever at Grant with as many as 17 underclassmen who could start, including 6-foot-8, 325-pound junior left tackle Darrin Paulo.
The section's top senior skill-position college recruit is wide receiver Alex Van Dyke of No. 11 Cosumnes Oaks. No. 12 Inderkum returns quarterback C.J. Spencer, a rising recruit, and No. 13 Franklin welcomes back linebacker Joey Banks from a 12-1 team that fell to Granite Bay in the D-I semifinals.
Antelope and Del Campo No. 14 and 15, respectively meet Aug. 30.
The Delta River League has four ranked teams in Folsom, Pleasant Grove, Rocklin and No. 19 Jesuit. The Sierra Foothill League has three in the top six in Granite Bay, Del Oro and Rocklin. The Delta Valley Conference has Elk Grove, Grant and Franklin in the rankings.
Coaches brunch Area coaches are encouraged to attend the annual National Football Foundation Coaches' Kickoff Brunch on Sunday at 10 a.m. at the Carmichael Elks Lodge, an event co-sponsored by The Bee, MaxPreps and Access Sacramento.
For information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE BEE'S PRESEASON TOP 20
With last season's records
1. Folsom 14-1
2. Granite Bay 13-3
3. Elk Grove 12-2
4. Del Oro 7-6
5. Pleasant Grove 7-5
6. Rocklin 5-6
7. Oak Ridge 12-2
8. Burbank 12-1
9. Grant 5-6
10. Vista del Lago 11-2
11. Cosumnes Oaks 9-3
12. Inderkum 10-3
13. Franklin 12-1
14. Antelope 10-2
15. Del Campo 9-3
16. Rio Linda 8-3
17. Placer 11-1
18. Center 10-3
19. Jesuit 5-5
20. El Camino 8-4