Scott Jenner hasn’t just witnessed the evolution of high school football over 40 years. He’s lived it.
The rise of football in this region can be traced to an 11-mile radius along Highway 50. Jenner was the star quarterback for the famed Cordova High School Lancers of 1975, when Big Red ran teams ragged with the wishbone. That team was 11-0 and ranked No. 1 in the country.
These days, Jenner, president and CEO of a financial services company in Placer County, watches “in awe” as the Folsom Bulldogs set a new standard for excellence a short trek west of Rancho Cordova.
Jenner watches the Bulldogs because his son, Brad, is a key defensive player and he’s become a fan. Folsom has won a state-leading 30 games in a row, all 16 last season, leading to a debate if the Bulldogs have surpassed Jenner’s 1975 bunch as the region’s greatest team.
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“It’s absolutely amazing how far the game has come,” Jenner said Monday.
When Jenner played, it was on grass fields. Offenses were basic, with a focus on running. There were no playoffs and not nearly the media attention and recruiting intensity, and social media didn’t exist.
Our Cordova coaches, Dewey Guerra and Ron Lancaster, spent time in Oklahoma to learn the wishbone, and they came back and said, ‘OK, the ’bone is the way to go.’ The great coaches find ways to get better. I had those coaches, and Folsom has those kinds of coaches now.
Scott Jenner, quarterback for Cordova’s 1975 unbeaten team
Games are now played on turf. Running teams have given way to wide-open passing attacks, and Folsom has led the way with a string of record-breaking quarterbacks.
How athletes work out and prepare is different, too. In Jenner’s era, it was deemed a weakness if a player pleaded for water during a hot practice. These days, common sense dictates that a hydrated athlete is not only safer but performs better.
“We used to think no water made you a tougher kid,” Jenner said. “We were lucky to get a cup of warm water with grass in it, and you’d die to have that cup of water.”
The era of two-a-day practice sessions also is gone. Hitting drills – mandatory almost to a sadistic point in the 1970s – have been reduced considerably because of increased awareness of concussions.
Technology also has brought about change. The Internet and the ability to quickly edit game film allows teams to prepare better than ever. In the 1970s, a playbook might have included 25 plays; keep it simple was the motto. Now coaches have 100 or more plays.
Folsom’s offense is as complex as any in the state, and quarterback Jake Jeffrey executes it flawlessly. Jeffrey’s position coach is Troy Taylor, who also has factored into the evolution. Taylor was the region’s first quarterback to pass for 2,500 yards and rush for 1,000 more in a season for undefeated Cordova (14-0) in 1985.
30 Folsom’s winning streak, the longest in the state
“And the game’s come so far since then that it’s crazy, but it’s fun,” Taylor said.
Taylor and Folsom co-coach Kris Richardson have visited Oregon and other college programs that run the spread offense, gleaning ideas. Curiosity is not a new concept.
“Our Cordova coaches, Dewey Guerra and Ron Lancaster, spent time in Oklahoma to learn the wishbone, and they came back and said, ‘OK, the ’bone is the way to go,’ ” Jenner said. “The great coaches find ways to get better. I had those coaches, and Folsom has those kinds of coaches now.”
The playoffs didn’t start for larger schools until 1976, a year after Jenner played. The CIF State Bowl championships didn’t begin until 2006, and Regional title games were introduced in 2012.
Three schools – Folsom, Del Oro and Bradshaw Christian – play in Northern California Regional championships Friday, a first for this area.
Folsom beat Elk Grove 35-27 to win the Division I title Saturday in front of what appeared to be 15,000 at Sacramento State. Such crowds are rare now with so many games televised and live-streamed and updates available on social media. Jenner, who played collegiately at Idaho State, American River College and Pittsburgh, was there for the Bulldogs’ win.
“My experiences give me a tremendous amount of street cred at home with my sons,” Jenner said. “Then I get that look from across the dinner table from my wife, Lisa. I was telling Brad before his last game to take a moment, breathe in that turf air, soak it in. Pay homage to those before you. I’ve been there. This is a special time. The experience is one thing that never changes.”
CIF NorCal football championships
All games Friday at 7:30 p.m.
▪ Division I-AA: Bellarmine (12-1)
at Folsom (14-0), CSNCA
▪ Division II-AA: Del Oro (8-6)
at Liberty-Bakersfield (9-3)
▪ Division V-AA: Bradshaw Christian (12-1) at Immanuel-Reedley (10-2)