Only one NorCal Open football team will advance to state

Win and advance, yes. Lose and advance, too?

It won’t happen.

Some of the behind-the-scenes talk among coaches and administrators was how to get the top two high school football teams in Northern California into CIF State Bowl games in Carson. But for the second consecutive season, De La Salle of Concord and Folsom, who are a combined 27-0, will play for the NorCal Open title when they meet tonight at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill.

The Open Division was created for such showdowns, especially in state bowl games.

But for Folsom, the timing couldn’t be more frustrating. The Bulldogs have compiled back-to-back spectacular seasons but have had to play De La Salle, one of the nation’s top programs, in the NorCal Open championship game. The Spartans won 49-15 last year at Hornet Stadium.

Before the NorCal regionals were introduced last season, the state’s 10 section commissioners decided teams for state bowls. Under that scenario, Folsom, 14-0 both seasons, and De La Salle likely would have been selected for state bowl games both years, De La Salle in the Open game and Folsom in Division I.

There have been suggestions that the NorCal Open loser could represent the North in the state Division I game, but what about the NorCal Division I winner? Or perhaps the NorCal and SoCal Open losers could play, but that would add a losers’ bracket game; in all levels of football, the playoffs are a do-or-die scenario.

“I don’t see it changing,” Sac-Joaquin Section Commissioner Pete Saco said.

Added Mike Garrison of the CIF bowl selection committee, “The two best teams in Northern California are supposed to be in the Open Division. De La Salle and Folsom, as everyone believes, deserve to be in the Open.”

Folsom doesn’t want to avoid playing De La Salle. Bulldogs co-coaches Kris Richardson and Troy Taylor tried to schedule De La Salle this season.

“We wanted to play them again, to give it another try,” Richardson said.

Folsom defense strong under Baiz – It’s not just the Folsom offense that has received high marks this season, with Jake Browning setting state season marks for passing yards (5,393) and touchdown passes (74). The defense has quietly produced a strong season. The Bulldogs are allowing 15 points a game under second-year defensive coordinator Lou Baiz, the longtime former Sacramento State assistant.

“Lou’s been awesome, a real unsung guy for us,” Richardson said. “Very happy to have him here.”

Lineman Lukas Hendricks, linebacker Eddie Flores and defensive backs Rodney Ellison, Calvin Gardner and Michael McCuaig have had strong seasons. Folsom has 16 interceptions, three each by McCuaig, Gardner and Jake Morgado.