This has been an unusual high school football season, which is to say it has been refreshingly fun.
There have been upsets and near-upsets. And the forecast calls for more as the season nears the midway point.
How does one explain upstart Sacramento upending then No. 1-Folsom 32-27 last month, and winless Davis toppling then-No. 2 Elk Grove 16-14 a week later? Or winless Pleasant Grove falling to No. 5 Grant 21-20 on Friday, undone by a missed extra point?
That’s football. If it was easy to go 10-0 every year, it wouldn’t be a challenge.
Kris Richardson, Folsom coach
The competitive gap has narrowed, at least for now. Coaches are instilling into their players the belief that even the heavyweights are beatable if they focus on details and pour every ounce of energy into every play.
Even De La Salle, the nationally renowned Concord team that just doesn’t lose, has been pushed to the brink this season.
De La Salle beat Servite of Anaheim 28-27 last month, fell 23-21 to East of Salt Lake City, Utah’s top-ranked team, then hung on to beat Antioch 28-21. On Friday, De La Salle stuffed a late two-point conversion attempt to beat San Ramon Valley 28-27, the Spartans’ closest game against a Northern California opponent since 2004.
The Spartans extended their unbeaten streak against NorCal teams to 275 games, dating to 1992, and their winning streak against California competition to 101. If De La Salle is vulnerable, everyone is.
“That’s football,” Folsom coach Kris Richardson said. “If it was easy to go 10-0 every year, it wouldn’t be a challenge.”
Del Oro won’t go 10-0. The top-ranked Golden Eagles were dominated 42-7 by No. 3 Folsom on Friday in a Sierra Foothill League showdown.
They played incredibly hard, and it’s a credit to how hard they play. We’re seeing a lot of that this season. Everyone’s playing hard.
Carl Reed, Grant assistant coach, on winless Pleasant Grove, which lost 21-20 to the Pacers
The telling part will be how Del Oro responds. The Golden Eagles sure did a year ago, going from 2-6 to CIF State Division II-AA champions.
“We want to see how good we are,” Del Oro coach Casey Taylor said before Friday’s game. “Folsom’s been the area’s best team the last few years. This is a great test for us. Maybe we’re legit and we make a serious run again. Maybe we’re not there yet and we need more work.”
Pleasant Grove has competed like a team with a lot to win, not to lose. The Eagles have remained united, perhaps more so since popular coach Jason Rossow stepped aside last month to ward off any signs of brain cancer, which left him hospitalized in 2014. Interim coaches Steve Robards and Lew Lassetter, leaders with championship pedigrees, have kept Pleasant Grove competitive, including losses of 35-20 to Jesuit and 35-16 to Monterey Trail in games that were closer than the scores indicated.
“They played incredibly hard, and it’s a credit to how hard they play,” Grant assistant coach Carl Reed said. “We’re seeing a lot of that this season. Everyone’s playing hard.”
Who’s No. 1? – Folsom (6-1) has upped its game since losing to Sacramento (5-1), which is ranked second and lost only to state-ranked JSerra Catholic of San Juan Capistrano. With Del Oro (6-1) losing, social media was abuzz Friday and Saturday debating who should be The Sacramento Bee’s top-ranked team. Is it Sacramento by virtue of rising a spot and owning a victory over Folsom and snapping the Bulldogs’ 48-game regular-season winning streak? Folsom had been The Bee’s No. 1 team for 64 weeks.
Or is it Folsom for battering Del Oro? Many insist the loss to Sacramento was a fluke, which is unfair to the Dragons, who led 32-14 in that game. There are no standings for fluke losses. You win or you lose. Cal-Hi Sports editor Mark Tennis argues this is the time of the season when teams get ranked higher than those they lost to. He indicated he would rate Folsom higher than Sacramento in the Sac-Joaquin Section and state rankings based on overall body of work (Folsom plays in a stronger league and owns wins over Del Oro and Jesuit, while Sacramento has one victory over a ranked opponent).