Quarterback Jake Browning and host Folsom High School held off Delta River League rival Jesuit 42-35 on Friday night in an entertaining and closer-than-expected Sac-Joaquin Section Division I semifinal in front of a packed crowd in the chill at Prairie City Stadium.
But Folsom’s return to the section final for a fourth consecutive season – against neighboring rival Oak Ridge, another league opponent – was set in motion during the searing heat of summer.
With Friday’s win over the fired-up Marauders (9-4), Folsom is 13-0 this season, ranked No. 15 nationally, No. 5 in the state and No. 2 in Northern California by Maxpreps.com.
In the last four seasons, Folsom is 52-5 with two D-II section titles, a CIF State Bowl championship banner and a NorCal Regional runner-up appearance.
The formula is simple: Consistency of coaching, skilled players who have grown up running a spread offense, cutting-edge schemes and, most importantly, hard work.
“Because of our success, the bar has been set pretty high,” Folsom co-coach Kris Richardson said. “So we don’t have issues with guys missing workouts or skipping our speed work or our summer program when it’s 100 degrees out.
“When you are used to winning, and as long as you keep working hard while you are winning, you get buy-in from the kids, the parents. We’ve got a good thing going.”
A good thing that developing programs like Jesuit want to emulate. The Marauders lost by 42to Folsom in October but made it interesting Friday.
Behind defensive stalwarts Austin Gates and Cole Wilbourne and the running of Ben Parietti and Beau Bisharat and quarterback Jason Elenberger, the Marauders took a 21-20 lead early in the third quarter after driving 72 yards. Parietti’s 9-yard touchdown run capped the drive.
Folsom went up 28-21 on a Browning 3-yard keeper and two-point conversion pass to Josiah Deguara with five minutes to go in the third quarter.
Jesuit tied it 28-28 on Elenberger’s dazzling 47-yard burst, but Folsom scored the next two touchdowns, a 12-yard run by Bailey Laolagi late in the third quarter and a Bryan Weldy 9-yard run with 9:56 to play, to go ahead 42-28.
Jesuit closed to within 42-35 with 7:31 to play on Bisharat’s powerful 13-yard run in which he dragged several Bulldog tacklers into the end zone.
But Folsom was able to run out the clock.
It was a strong finish for a Jesuit program under second-year coach Marlon Blanton that won its first playoff game in 10 years this season.
That Delta River League competition has steeled Folsom, too, and the Bulldogs expect Oak Ridge also will give a strong performance in the final after falling to Folsom 35-0 during the league season.
The DRL is viewed as one of the section’s best and one of the strongest in Northern California, though it will disappear next season in the section’s realignment.
Pleasant Grove and Jesuit are ranked among the top five in the section and top eight in Northern California by Maxpreps.com.
Pleasant Grove led 7-6 at the half on a Dre Terrell 1-yard rushing touchdown, but the Trojans scored on a Hughes run and 31-yard run by Josh Wellman to take a 20-7 lead with 4:27 left in the third.
Oak Ridge won the first contest between the DRL opponents 28-14 on Nov. 1.
Terrell tossed two late touchdown passes to Wyatt Demps.
Oak Ridge sophomore quarterback Ian Book passed for 130 yards and Wellman rushed for 80 yards.