This is hardly a one-man show brewing, though quarterbacks do tend to garner the headlines at Folsom High School.
The top-ranked Bulldogs have unleashed another passer to behold in Jake Browning, and the junior sparkled again Friday night against No. 2 Granite Bay in a playoff-like setting in Placer County.
Browning, as poised as he is prolific, passed for 242 yards and two touchdowns to steer a 30-14 triumph, but it was his unsung support crew that has made this another prospective championship team. The offensive line, revamped after last year's 14-1 march to the NorCal Open Bowl, has allowed one sack in two games, and Browning was not touched in this one despite facing a fierce defense that is headed by college recruit linebackers in Dylan Keeney and Cameron Smith. Those players had their moments with a blocked point-after touchdown and an interception, but the night belonged to the Bulldogs, who won all phases of the game.
The offensive line of Nick Bolling, Austin Rothrock, Sam Whitney, Tommy Farrell and Koch Will earned game balls for ensuring time-consuming drives with a running game. Bailey Laolagi rushed for 121 yards and scored on a 1-yard run.
And the Bulldogs defense stood tall again under defensive coordinator Lou Baiz, highlighted by Calvin Gardner's 71-yard interception return on a fourth-down pass to open the scoring. It was a complete effort against the top two teams in the Sac-Joaquin Section who are ranked No. 2 and 3 in Northern California behind De La Salle by MaxPreps and are top 10 teams in the state.
"The offensive line has really stepped up," Browning said. "With a line like that, I have all the time in the world. They deserve a lot of credit, and so does the defense."
The game has deeper meaning than just immediate regional bragging rights. Section title teams from this region expect NorCal title berths, such as Folsom reaching the prestigious Open game where it fell to eventual national No. 1 De La Salle of Concord. Granite Bay rolled St. Ignatius of San Francisco in the Division I NorCal finals, thrusting it into the state finals in Carson, where the Grizzlies beat Long Beach Poly.
This meeting was a preview of when they will be Sierra Foothill League members next season with realignment.
Browning, a junior, had touchdown passes of 12 and 13 yards to Josiah Deguara and Will McClure, respectively, to give him nine on the season. Josh Neal hit Marc Ellis for touchdown strikes of 23 and 12 yards in the Granite Bay coaching debut for Skip Albano, who took over for the retired-for-now Ernie Cooper, who watched the game as the Grizzlies' new biggest fan from behind the north end zone.
Folsom co-coach Kris Richardson said his team's ability to spread the field presents nightmares for defenses. There's Browning, and then there are hard runners such as Bryan Weldy, who rushed for 44 yards.
Granite Bay, in its season opener, showed all the promise of a team that will make another title run, but three interceptions and a fumbled kickoff return stalled any hope of momentum.
Grizzlies fly back Tony Ellison opened with a 51-yard run and finished with 93 yards on 14 carries.
"It's 1 vs. 2, and we want to show people a good game," said Smith, Granite Bay's linebacker leader, before the game. "We know we can't give up big plays because Jake's a good quarterback. But it's not just him that's good."
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