Shawn Johnson had a simple assessment of his Folsom Bulldogs’ defense Friday night against the visiting Oak Ridge Trojans: When players listen to coaches and stay in their gaps, good things happen.
Though they strayed from that direction in the first half, the senior and his teammates contained quarterback Marco Baldacchino after halftime as No. 2 Folsom claimed the Sierra Foothill League title with a 17-16 victory over No. 3 Oak Ridge before a packed Prairie City Stadium.
“In the first half we were beating ourselves and missing our assignments,” said Johnson, who shuffled between playing in the secondary and as a linebacker. “But once we started doing what we were told and staying in our gaps he (Baldacchino) had nowhere to go and we started hitting him.”
Baldacchino had 53 rushing yards in the first half, but went backward after, finishing with 41 yards on 18 carries.
Oak Ridge had a chance to win after recovering an onside kick while trailing 17-16 with 42 seconds remaining.
Justin Poerio, the Trojans’ Swiss Army knife, said he could have tried a 45-yard field goal. But he said his coaches couldn’t hear his pleas from the bench, where the junior wide receiver-defensive back-placekicker-punter was nursing an injured left ankle.
The Trojans faced fourth down from the Folsom 28-yard line with 33 seconds left. As well as Poerio was playing, it would have been fitting that he nailed a long kick for the win and the SFL title. But he limped off the field after a nifty catch-and-run a series earlier.
Oak Ridge coach Eric Cavaliere elected to throw and Baldacchino’s last pass fell incomplete.
“I know I could have done it,” Poerio said as a teammate helped him limp to a postgame TV interview. “The school record is 47 yards and I play around with that all the time in practice and make them.”
Poerio had a 19-yard field goal to open the scoring, a 3-yard touchdown run, kicked a PAT and had several punts that pinned Folsom deep into their own territory, including a 61-yarder that was stopped just in front of Folsom’s goal line.
Bulldogs senior quarterback Joe Curry was 22 of 35 for 228 yards and two touchdowns including the winning 2-yarder to Brad Jenner in the front-right corner of the end zone.
“We got off to a slow start but we dug down deep in the second half and dusted off some plays,” Curry said. “It all came down to defense.”
Folsom (9-1, 6-0) is likely to be the top seed in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs that start next week. The playoff seedings will be announced Saturday. The Bulldogs are looking to win their fifth consecutive section title and fourth straight in D-I. Oak Ridge (8-2, 5-1) has won Sac-Joaquin Section titles in D-II and D-III but never D-I.
Mark Billingsley is a Carmichael-based freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org or @editorwriter001
Oak Ridge (8-2) 3 7 0 6 - 16
Folsom (9-1) 0 7 3 7 – 17
OR – Poerio 19 field goal
OR – Poerio 3 run (Poerio kick)
F – Davis 8 pass from Curry (Calderara kick)
F – Calderara 35 field goal
F – Jenner 2 pass from Curry (Calderara kick)
OR – Eastman 15 pass from Baldacchino (conversion fail)