The welts and bruises will sting awhile, sure, but there’s no shame faltering at this stage of the high school football season.
The Folsom Bulldogs charged back to Sacramento State to compete in their seventh successive Sac-Joaquin Section championship game, having won four banners. On Saturday night, the section’s preeminent power this decade took one on the chin for once after delivering so many haymakers, buckling to the power running game of Dusty Frampton and the precision passing of Jake Dunniway as St. Mary’s of Stockton registered an impressive 56-25 victory.
It’s the first such title for the Rams since 2008 and coach Tony Franks, a St. Mary’s and UC Davis grad who said his team had to play flawless ball to derail the Bulldogs express.
St. Mary’s (13-1) piled up 583 yards, none more hard-charging and emphatic than the 288 on 31 carries by Frampton, who chugged for the game’s final three touchdowns on runs of 3, 47 and 13 yards, giving him 36 on the season. Dunniway passed for 268 yards and four touchdowns, giving him 42 on the year.
St. Mary’s stopped Folsom (12-2) three times on fourth down and held the Bulldogs to minus-4 rushing yards on 13 carries, including five sacks. The Rams will learn Sunday afternoon whom they will host in a Northern California Regional playoff contest.
Folsom’s upper division-record 19-game section playoff streak ended, but this was by no means a downer of a season. The Bulldogs have been the region’s most dominant large-school program since the nationally recognized Cordova Lancers of the 1970s.
Folsom coach Kris Richardson was delighted with his team’s effort, including scoring 19 unanswered points to pull to within 35-25, but the Rams were too strong, too fast, too skilled and too motivated. St. Mary’s players played up the revenge factor all week, recalling how they lost 56-49 to the Bulldogs in last season’s D-I semifinals and how they fell to Grant 21-14 in the 2014 section D-II final, also at Sac State. A host of players returned this season, and the Rams have looked the part of powerhouse, including routs of Bay Area powers Serra of San Mateo and Cardinal Newman of Santa Rosa.
“It’s personal,” Dunniway said this week.
Franks said of the pain of losing in the playoffs: “It’s brutal, heartbreaking. You never get over it. Sticks with you forever.”
Richardson embraced players as the clock wound down, including senior first-year varsity starting quarterback Joe Curry, who passed for 388 yards and three touchdowns and ran for one, giving him 53 passing scores for the season. Curry hit Joe Ngata for an 81-yard touchdown strike to open his team’s scoring. Folsom this season replaced four graduated offensive linemen, its quarterback, and its top rushers and tacklers from last season’s 14-1 team.
And Folsom expects to be back with scores of returners and talented players coming from the freshman and junior varsity ranks.
“To be playing in the finals for the seventh straight year is a great accomplishment, something to be proud about, and we don’t take it for granted how hard that is to do in this section because a lot of teams have already turned in their gear and had their team banquet already,” Richardson said earlier in the week. “I know I’m proud.”