About the only suspense was the logistics: Where to play the Northern California Regional football games with so many bids to consider?
On Sunday, the state’s 10 high school section commissioners met to decide regional teams and locations, and two area powerhouses in Folsom and Del Oro that were expected to advance did so. Folsom and Del Oro, consistent league champions for more than 50 years, will take on storied Bay Area programs De La Salle of Concord and Serra of San Mateo, respectively, in a meeting of public vs. private schools.
The NorCal Open game, designed to pit the best against the best, will again feature the most decorated team in the country in De La Salle against Folsom, winner of three Sac-Joaquin Section titles since 2010 and a 2010 CIF state bowl. The game will be Saturday at Diablo Valley College, for years De La Salle’s home field for later-round playoff games or when playing out-of-state teams.
DVC also represents a homecoming of sorts for Folsom co-coach Kris Richardson. He played his College Park High of Pleasant Hill football games at DVC, and he was later a standout lineman for DVC in 1987 and ’88.
Del Oro, a nine-time section title winner and a CIF state bowl team in 2011, plays a Serra program, which once lined up Lynn Swann and Tom Brady, for the Division I title Friday at San Jose City College. Del Oro has won 11 consecutive games, last losing to De La Salle, which beat rival Serra 21-14 on Sept. 7..
CIF executives said Sunday these two were the easiest games to slot of the four scheduled.
Folsom (14-0) is 28-1 the past two seasons, falling only to De La Salle (13-0) in last year’s NorCal Open at Sacramento State. Unbeaten against NorCal foes since 1991, a span of 250 games, the Spartans went on to win their fourth successive CIF State Open title in 2012 and finish nationally ranked No. 1 for the 10th time. De La Salle is coming off its 22nd consecutive North Coast Section Division I title in beating California of San Ramon. It has been named state-ranked No. 1 by Cal-Hi Sports 17 times since 1992. Folsom has been NorCal-ranked No. 2 all of this season behind De La Salle; The Bulldogs have been state-ranked No. 3 since the start of the season, too.
Folsom’s prolific offense led by Jake Browning will face a physical De La Salle defense. Browning (state-record 5,393 yards, state-record 74 touchdown passes) tossed five touchdowns, four to Troy Knox, and ran for two to beat Oak Ridge 49-17 on Saturday in the section D-I final.
“They’re a great program,” Richardson said of De La Salle. “I know we’ll give it everything we’ve got.”
Serra (11-2) is coming off its first Central Coast Section Open championship, topping Archbishop Mitty of San Jose 21-7, and it won the West Catholic Athletic League, one of the top leagues in the state. The Padres are coached by Patrick Walsh, a former De La Salle star running back and assistant coach.
Del Oro (12-2) rallied from 19-0 down in the fourth quarter to beat Elk Grove in the section D-II final as Michael Moore tossed three late touchdown passes, two to Trey Udoffia and the game winner with just more than a minute to play to Dylan Kainrath.
The Sac-Joaquin Section earned four NorCal berths in another show of staying power.
“Our section speaks for itself,” section Commissioner Pete Saco said. “We have great football here.”
In the NorCal D-II game, Manteca (13-1) will face Enterprise (12-0) of the Northern Section at Lincoln of Stockton on Saturday. Manteca beat Sacramento in the section D-III title game at Lincoln. Teams can move up in division in the NorCal and state games as enrollments vary drastically across the state.
The section’s other remaining team is defending NorCal and state champion Central Catholic of Modesto. The Raiders (13-1) will play McClymonds of Oakland (10-2) in the D-IV NorCal game at Lincoln of Stockton on Friday.
In the D-III game, El Cerrito (12-2) will play Sacred Heart Prep of Atherton (12-1) at De Anza High School on Saturday.
CIF NORCAL REGIONAL GAMES
Folsom (14-0) vs. De La Salle-Concord (13-0) at Diablo Valley College, 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Del Oro (12-2) vs. Serra-San Mateo (11-2) at San Jose City College, 7:30 p.m. Friday
Enterprise-Redding (12-0) vs. Manteca (13-1) at Lincoln-Stockton, 7:30 p.m. Saturday
El Cerrito (12-2) vs. Sacred Heart Prep-Atherton (12-1) at De Anza High, 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Central Catholic-Modesto (13-1) vs. McClymonds-Oakland (10-2) at Lincoln-Stockton, 7:30 p.m. Friday