Folsom loses to De La Salle in NorCal Open title game

There’s a painfully true motto in football that reads something like this: You cannot simulate size, power or speed.

So how do you deal with all three rolled into one devastating package, laced with tradition and unfathomable momentum? A line of teams out the door and down the block are anxious to find out.

For the second successive December, Folsom High School discovered just how unique and incomparable the standard bearer of excellence at this level is in De La Salle.

The nationally renowned Spartans of Concord posted a 45-17 victory at Diablo Valley College in the Northern California Regional Open game and now set their sights on a fifth consecutive CIF State Open title next Saturday in Carson.

Twice, De La Salle (14-0) offered a considerable roadblock to Folsom’s quest for perfection, and twice the Spartans refused to allow it happen. Last year in the Open it was a 49-15 win that left Folsom with a 14-1 record, and it played out again Saturday, as the Bulldogs faced a team that was bigger, faster, quicker and a great deal more efficient.

A crowd of some 7,000 packed in to watch the Spartans dominate the trenches, with line surge out of the veer freeing a bevy of backs on offense. John Velasco rushed for 128 yards and four touchdowns, and Antoine Custer went for 139.

Bryan Weldy scored on a 4-yard run to cut De La Salle’s lead to 38-10 with 10:43 to play. Folsom recovered the onside kick, but Jake Browning was intercepted a moment later on a tipped pass, a near-miss that epitomized the Bulldogs’ night. Browning passed for 337 yards and hit Troy Knox for a 28-yard touchdown with 48 seconds left. But nothing came easy.

The De La Salle defensive front features five Division I recruits, all in the 6-foot-4, 290-pound frame with agility and instincts. Longtime NorCal coaches and media agree this is the best set of lines for De La Salle in its remarkable history, one that includes a 250-game unbeaten streak against NorCal foes since 1991, a 333-5-2 showing against the North since 1984, a 35-0 lifetime record against the Sac-Joaquin Section and a 7-0 mark against Sacramento teams.

De La Salle’s overall winning streak now stands at 40, and the Spartans have won 67 straight against California competition.

Folsom’s timing is such that it has produced two of the most electrifying, dominant teams in section history and two of the most prolific teams in state history only to be derailed by a program without peer.

Folsom came in averaging 55 points. Browning finished with 5,730 yards, far and away a state record, and 75 touchdown passes, also a state mark by a metric mile.

But scoring against De La Salle is a tall task. The Spartans were able to rush three and were still in control against a Folsom line that was a foundation of stability all season.

“Those guys are incredible,” Folsom co-coach Troy Taylor said before the game of the Spartans in general. “There isn’t a single defensive lineman in Sacramento that can start for De La Salle. It’s just hard to simulate. You can’t.”

Bulldogs defensive coordinator Lou Baiz captured his team’s anxiety in the coaching booth when, just before halftime with his team down 19-3, he muttered, “I don’t have anything else up here to break.”

Co-coach Kris Richardson led Folsom to the 2010 CIF State D-II title, but he wonders if the Bulldogs can return to Carson if De La Salle continues to tower above the competition. He has suggested a format in which the NorCal and SocCal Open losers face off in a game, or something to allow the second-best NorCal team to advance.

“I really feel for the kids,” Richardson said. “I wish there was a way to get the two best teams in the state finals. We’ll be back.”

The Bulldogs quite likely will enter next season second in NorCal for the third successive year behind you know who. Browning is just a junior. Four Bulldogs linemen return, as do two running backs and receiver Josiah Deguara, and the junior varsity team went 10-0. And Richardson will try to schedule De La Salle early next season. He did the same this season, too.

“We got here again, and that means we had a great year again,” Richardson said. “We’re still going to go ring shopping to celebrate (the section D-I title win over Oak Ridge).”