High School Sports

Folsom Football Fatigue Syndrome? It could be one of the factors hurting the sport

Debunking Theory No. 1 on the Sac-Joaquin Section: It does not line its pockets with untold riches from high school sports.

On the eve of every football season, the section opens its accounting books to the media, detailing gross revenue (before expenses) for every sport from badminton to wrestling.

Football is the cash cow as it draws the most fans. No surprise there.

What was a surprise was that last fall’s section football playoffs grossed $525,671, well below the 10-year average of $635,000. The high-water mark was 2013, when the section football playoff revenue gross was $691,211.

The football net income for 2018 was $328,166.41, down from the 2016 total of $417,635.62. Last fall’s football net income accounted for nearly half the section’s all-sports income. Basketball playoffs – girls and boys – generated $151,576.51. Badminton generated $208 and cross country $837, down significantly from $4,532 the year before, due to poor air quality.

What happened in football?

The product didn’t suddenly sour, not with six section teams reaching the state finals in Colfax, Del Oro, Denair, Folsom, Hilmar and Rio Linda, with Folsom repeating in Division I-AA and Rio Linda taking home 5-AA honors.

But NorCal and CIF finals contests are not revenue-makers for the section. Those dollars go to the CIF, the governing body for the 10 sections that make up the state.

Section assistant commissioner Will DeBoard cited several reasons for the cash decline, which led to the section ending the academic year $144,000 in gross revenue deficit.

The Camp Fire that devastated Butte County and leveled the town of Paradise left Northern California with bad air quality, prompting game delays and scores of people from attending games when they were played.

Then the rain came. Then a big forfeit, and then the theme of fans tiring of watching the same old teams in the finals.

When Del Oro and Jesuit had to forfeit playoff games for using ineligible players, a sure showdown did not materialize. Del Oro was set to host Jesuit in a section Division II semifinal, and that lost gate was a loss of about $20,000 of gross revenue.

Too much Folsom?

And there’s the Folsom Fatigue Factor. The Bulldogs have been in a section final nine successive times, winning seven championships to go with four CIF state trophies.

Folsom fans love the success, certainly, but what about everyone else?

“It’s not a factor we can control, but it could be a bit of fan fatigue – the same teams in the section finals,” DeBoard said. “And some fans may just want to wait to the NorCal or state finals to go to a game.”

When Folsom played Grant for the 2010 section D-II championship, nearly 17,000 people packed into Sacramento State. Grant was the old-school order and Folsom was rising back to power.

Last fall’s section D-I final pitted 12-0 teams in Folsom and Monterey Trail, and Folsom rolled 63-25 behind a 42-point third quarter in front of 3,800 at Sac State.

One thought is for the section to contest playoff games on both Friday and Saturday nights. Playoff games are predominantly on Fridays, perfect for student buildup and carryover from after school and into game night mode.

But there’s a snag. Saturday games mean campus staff overtime and the real risk of even smaller crowds.

“Our football advisory committee likes the idea of Friday and Saturday games, but none of the schools want to be the ones playing on Saturdays,” DeBoard said.

In an effort to create more spirit, the section created the #TrueToYourSchool campaign where officials are looking for the best school spirit.

Defensive moment

Grant’s lone score in its 35-6 loss at Davis was a defensive lineman’s dream. Omarr Norman-Lott rumbled in from 26 yards with an interception for a 7-6 halftime score.

He is 6-foot-4, 310-pounder with scholarship offers from Pac-12 and Mountain West schools.

The hair up there

Cosumnes Oaks coach Andrew Bettencourt’s assistants had to see his hair before the Wolfpack’s season opener at Capital Christian.

They told him to take his hat off and Bettencourt happily obliged. The coach’s curly, long hair was neatly lined into corn rows. Everybody chuckled and he turned various shades of red.

Did he lose a bet or something?

Nope, those are his “war braids,” Bettencourt said with a smile.

The truth: Long hair gets in the way when you’re trying to focus on the game.

Cosumnes Oaks, it turned out, lost to a program led by a coach in Casey Taylor who has no hair to braid.

Picking the Preps

The Bee’s Joe Davidson sizes up and predicts five games of note:

No. 1 Folsom (0-0) vs. No. 8 Jesuit (0-0)

When: Friday at Sacramento State, 7 p.m.

Forecast: Big Red – that’s Jesuit – has had it up to its ear holes with Folsom, which has rolled the Marauders in the last two openers and also in the playoffs. Folsom has won 11 straight in the series.

Prediction: Folsom 35-21

No. 3 Oak Ridge (1-0) vs. No. 4 Vacaville (0-1)

When: Friday at Vacaville, 7 p.m.

Forecast: Oak Ridge coach Eric Cavaliere loves to return to his Solano County roots – he was a Bulldogs linebacker in the 1980s. Fans will cheer him and then root against him.

Prediction: Oak Ridge 30-28

No. 7 Inderkum (1-0) at No. 6 Del Oro (1-0)

When: Friday at Del Oro, 7:30 p.m.

Forecast: This would normally be a section D-II preview primer, only Del Oro is now slotted in D-I and Inderkum limps in with myriad injuries.

Prediction: Del Oro 28-24

Chico (0-0) vs. Sacramento (1-0)

When: Friday at Hughes Stadium, 7 p.m.

Forecast: The Dragons stunned Rancho Cotate 24-6 in an opener as Chico coaches scouted and saw diminutive QB Jaylen Betschart do big-boy things passing and throwing despite his 5-foot-7, 145-pound frame.

Prediction: Sacramento 24-21

Christian Brothers (1-0) vs. Pleasant Grove (1-0)

When: Friday at Sheldon, 7 p.m.

Forecast: Pleasant Grove went 0-10 a year ago and is a rousing 1-0 now behind QB Nathan Valencia, and Christian Brothers rolled Burbank 64-0 behind QB Jacob Stewart. So watch the running backs steal the show.

Prediction: Christian Brothers 35-34

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Joe Davidson has covered sports for The Sacramento Bee since 1988 and is award-winning authority on high school sports, specializing in going behind the scenes. Davidson was a high school athlete in Oregon, where he participated in football and track.