A year ago, Will McClure was so far at the end of the bench, you needed a spotter with binoculars to locate him.
Now, he stands tall as a glowing example of perseverance and pride.
The Folsom High School wide receiver managed one game of action last fall, catching two passes for 13 yards as he mostly watched a prolific machine hum to a 14-1 season. McClure these days is quite prolific himself, and he had a hand in the top-ranked Bulldogs' 35-0 rout of No. 4 Oak Ridge in a Delta River League opener at Prairie City Stadium on Friday night.
McClure had 172 yards on nine receptions and slammed the door on the Trojans with a spectacular 33-yard diving touchdown catch from Jake Browning to cap the scoring.
Browning completed 27 of 39 passes for 362 yards and three touchdowns, giving him 33 this season. He scrambled on a highlight play to hit Bryan Weldy for a 28-yard score, found Josiah Deguara for a 58-yard scoring strike and capped it with a bullet to McClure.
Browning is the humble star of the program, a rising recruit who is quick to dole out credit to his line, backs, receivers and defense.
Folsom co-coaches Kris Richardson and Troy Taylor said star power is always nice, sure, but it is overachievers such as McClure who make Folsom a championship program. McClure is the nephew of UCLA line coach and former Sacramento State standout lineman Angus McClure. Unlike his Hammerhead uncle, Will McClure has a skill player's body at 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds, and an admirable work ethic.
"Will's the hardest-working guy on the team," Richardson said. "After we ended last year with the loss to De La Salle (in the NorCal Open game), on that next Monday, Will was out there pulling tires on the field. I'd be pulling away from school, it's raining, and there's Will, all by himself, on the field running routes. ... He's done amazing things this year."
So has the Bulldogs' unsung defense under coordinator Lou Baiz, the former Sac State assistant coach who has unleashed an attacking, opportunistic unit. The Bulldogs (6-0, 1-0 DRL) batted down four passes, three by defensive end Lukas Hendricks. Other stoppers included lineman Sam Whitney and linebacker Eddie Flores. Defensive backs Mike McCuaig and Parker Boone knocked down passes. Even the special-teams unit sparkled with Jerod Nooner blocking a field-goal attempt.
And this was against a superb outfit in Oak Ridge (5-1, 0-1) that has wins over ranked teams Rocklin, Franklin and Grant.
Oak Ridge coach Eric Cavaliere heaped praise on Folsom this week for seamlessly plugging in new faces, such as McClure or Cole Thompson, who opened the game with an 87-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. The Trojans picked off Browning five times, two by Drew Lackowski, but Folsom's defense refused to let Oak Ridge capitalize.
"Impressive," Cavaliere said of Folsom in general. "Maybe what's most impressive is the string of quality teams it has put together now for the past six or seven years. They really have it rolling.
"And defensively, they have made some big strides. Their scheme is very solid, and they play aggressive, disciplined football."
Joe Davidson and Mike Finnerty break down high school football from 9-10 a.m. each Saturday on ESPN1320 (linked later to ESPN1320.net).