Coaches like to say that everything achieved after section championship play is “icing on the cake.”
Folsom High School had plenty of that icing this decade and this season, thick and glossy, but the latest dosage suddenly leaves a lasting, bitter taste.
It was going to take a remarkable effort by the Bellarmine Bells of San Jose to knock off the Bulldogs, and that’s what happened to the tune of a stirring 42-35 victory on Friday night in a CIF Northern California Regional Division I-AA championship game at Prairie City Stadium in a tight contest every bit as good as advertised.
Antonio Garcia scored the game winner with 41 seconds left on a 26-yard sprint, set up by a 54-yard interception return by Vincent Hernandez, and the Bells of the Central Coast Section held on from there for one of the greatest victories in the program’s storied history.
Coach Mike Janda, Bellarmine’s coach since 1984, certainly will savor it. He earned his 270th career victory to break the Central Section record. He now takes his third Bells team to a CIF Bowl game, seeking his first breakthrough there.
For Folsom? A lot of things treasured fell hard, including tears from scores of players who have never tasted defeat. Folsom’s state-leading 30-game winning streak ended, as did its 43-game home winning streak, the second longest in regional history to Nevada Union (ending in 1995).
The pre-icing rewards include four consecutive Sac-Joaquin Section titles and last season’s 16-0 team that stormed to a CIF State D-I championship. Twenty one starters graduated, but Folsom charged back to a 14-0 start before running headlong into Bellarmine (13-1).
Bellarmine operates out of a single-wing or double-wing set that dates to the leather helmet era. It’s an offense that is heavy on the run, but it stings opponents with the deep ball.
Troy Martig had touchdown strikes of 43 yards to Fernandez and 71 to Kyle Mccauley in the first half, and Martig expertly ran the offense with runs and short pitchouts. He’s a standout student headed to Columbia of the Ivy League, and he’s surrounded by a lot of gritty, tough, fast teammates.
Garcia scored the final two touchdowns to cap a thriller that included another terrific showing by Jake Jeffrey. The senior passed for 398 yards, hit Tre Green for two touchdowns and ran for one. The most exciting play might have been Eric Davis’ 96-yard kickoff return to tie it 28-28 with 7:34 left in the fourth quarter.
The loss ends the high school career of Jonah Williams, a five-star tackle headed to Alabama and considered by local coaches as the best lineman in regional history. The other tackle, Kooper Richardson, was proof of improvement and pride. The son of Folsom co-coach Kris Richardson emerged as a dominant player and said last week: “It’s been a dream run for all of us. We’ll never forget what we’ve done.”
Folsom fans offered a standing ovation to their beloved Bulldogs, who rallied to win games early and in recent weeks but finally ran out of downs and time on Friday night.
Del Oro 28, Liberty 24 in Bakersfield – Stone Smartt accounted for three touchdowns, none bigger than a short quarterback keeper with 22 seconds left to give the Golden Eagles their first lead and a stirring victory in Division II-AA play.
Smartt hit Mason Hurst for a touchdown pass and ran four yards for a score to put Del Oro in a CIF Bowl game for the third time this decade under coach Casey Taylor. Del Oro, which trailed the Central Section power 21-7, will play Dec. 19 at 4 p.m. at Sacramento State.