Even the best teams endure stop-and-start nights, where momentum picks up then stalls out and third quarters last nearly 90 minutes.
But in this brutish game of football, the only thing that ultimately matters is the beauty of what the scoreboard reads.
On Friday night at Prairie City Stadium, top-ranked Folsom muscled past No. 2 Rocklin 42-20 on Homecoming Night in what could ultimately decide the Sierra Foothill League championship.
Folsom expected a physical game from the Thunder, which beat previous No. 2 Oak Ridge by six last week seven days after Oak Ridge lost by three to Folsom.
But comparing scores and trying to make sense of it all only makes one dizzy.
It still comes down to blocking and tackling, and scoring of course. Folsom maximized the skills of its two quarterbacks — Jake Reithmeier and Ari Patu — and leaned on its unsung and tough defense to extend its SFL winning streak to 39.
The overall league winning streak is 43, dating back to Folsom’s Delta League days. Folsom last lost a league contest in 2011, to Pleasant Grove.
For the decade, the Bulldogs are now a gaudy 131-11, and they are inching closer to their ninth league championship with aim set on their eighth Sac-Joaquin Section banner and fifth CIF State trophy since 2010.
The SFL has tightened this season, to be sure, and it’s interesting to note that at this time a year ago, SFL coaches publicly wondered and suggested that Folsom should be moved into another league because the Bulldogs’ bite was deemed too deep and severe for this region.
That wishful thinking went nowhere, so the other SFL coaches instead kept working and grinding. In recent seasons, Folsom had running-clock scores against SFL teams. That has not been the case this season.
Rocklin (5-2) was every bit as stout as it had been against Oak Ridge, delivering hard hits, forcing fumbles, coming up with interceptions and moving the ball behind the sheer will of quarterback Richie Watts. Folsom had six turnovers, some on sloppy plays and others from the fury of the Thunder, but the Bulldogs had too many playmakers.
The game got chippy with some late hits, and assistant coaches from both sides jawed at each other when it was over.
Tanner Gomes scored on a 10-yard run, and Toran O’Harran hit Mason Becker for a trick-play 22-yard touchdown for a 17-14 Rocklin lead before Folsom (5-1) scored four touchdowns and a Cole Becker 30-yard field goal for Rocklin to blow it open.
Reithmeier hit Elijhah Badger for wide-open touchdown strikes of 86 and 42 yards in the first quarter and Patu had a 21-yard touchdown to C.J. Hutton and a 10-yard scoring run to give Folsom a 28-17 lead.
Kalen Higgins returned an interception 57 yards to push Folsom up 35-20, and Reithmeier hit Cameron Broussard for a 26-yard touchdown to make it 42-20. Reithmeier passed for 258 yards and Patu 116, and Badger had seven receptions for 186 yards. And Daniyel Ngata gutted through a sore knee to rush for 70 yards on 12 carries.
It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t pretty, but the Bulldogs still found joy in victory, understanding each is to be cherished.
“It’s harder to stay on top than it is to get to the top,” Folsom assistant coach Jordan Banning said. “It’s really hard because everyone comes after us. We get everyone’s best shot. I think the SFL is great and it’s good for everyone.”
Said Folsom coach Paul Doherty, “Competition is good. It’s good for the coaches, for the players, for the teams. It makes everyone better. We know we have to get better, and we will. We want to improve every week.”