The first headliner game of the high school football season was played in Week 1 in the heat of August.
The Bee's No. 1-ranked team, Folsom, beat then-No. 2 Granite Bay 30-14, kick-starting an ambitious-scheduling theme that played out across the region over the next month. Top-20 programs squared off in hopes of improving their teams and players while cashing in at the box office and concession stands.
Five weeks later, the next area donnybrook arrives.
Folsom, holding steady at No. 1 and state-ranked No. 3 by Cal-Hi Sports, plays host tonight to No. 4 Oak Ridge in a meeting of 5-0 teams. The Delta River League opener carries much more weight than conference positioning and rivalry bragging rights.
Much like the college game, prominent prep teams now have Northern California and state bowl implications riding on outcomes, not that the coaches will admit to such concern. They are focusing on the here and now.
Still, the winner tonight has a leg up on the Sac-Joaquin Section's top league, which also includes No. 3 Pleasant Grove and No. 11 Jesuit.
Ranked second in Northern California by MaxPreps behind No. 1 De La Salle of Concord, Folsom is the reigning Division II section champion but could move up to D-I, depending on enrollment when the fields are sorted out after Week 10.
Oak Ridge, ranked No. 6 by MaxPreps in NorCal, lost in the D-I section final last season to Granite Bay, which went on to win NorCal and CIF State D-I titles. Folsom lost to De La Salle in the NorCal Open showcase. With only section champions eligible for the NorCal regional finals, imagine if Folsom, Oak Ridge, Granite Bay and Pleasant Grove are bunched in the D-I field.
The key tonight is which quarterback – Folsom junior Jake Browning or Oak Ridge sophomore Ian Book – gets rattled. One player who will do his best to protect Book is junior tackle Nolan Book, the quarterback's older brother.
Four area running backs are closing in on 1,000 yards and could achieve the feat in their next games. They include T.J. Dove of River Valley (989 yards), Logan Kirby of El Dorado (940), Floyd Hillis-Cooper of Kennedy (936) and Dane Stimbert of Lincoln (885).
Jason Elenberger of Jesuit has passed for 13 touchdowns with no interceptions. The Marauders play tonight at Ponderosa, where the Bruins have seven interceptions – five by Conrad Washington, which ties him for the area lead with Justice Shelton-Mosley of Capital Christian.
Woodland Christian quarterback Anthony Castaneda limped off the field with a deep shin bruise in a 32-20 loss to Elliot Christian of Lodi last week. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound senior has 14 touchdown passes and one interception for the 5-1 Cardinals, who have a bye tonight.
The unsung defensive leader for Bella Vista is linebacker Justin Baser, who leads the area in tackles per game at 13.2.
Max O'Rourke of Rocklin and Mason Humes of Del Oro are tied for the area lead with five field goals. Humes beat Grant with a field goal in double overtime, 38-35.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Zak Burden, Rio Linda
In an example of a team player, Burden battled Stephen Andrews for the Rio Linda quarterback job, lost to the senior but seamlessly merged into other roles in helping the Knights to a 4-1 start. In a 21-7 victory over Ponderosa last week, the junior safety recovered a fumble and had two interceptions, returning one 21 yards for a touchdown, and is The Sacramento Bee's Prep Player of the Week through fan voting. Burden quarterbacked the Knights' junior varsity team to a Capital Valley Conference title last fall. Despite a lanky frame, he is a member of the Rio Linda 1,000-Pound Club in the weight room.
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD, check out his PrepsPlus Insider every Monday at blogs.sacbee.com/preps and listen to his "Extra Point" every Wednesday on ESPN Radio 1320.