Folsom Bulldogs middle linebacker Roger Neal has already forgotten his interception and all his tackles Friday night at Granite Bay. His fumble late in the No. 1 Bulldogs’ 27-14 victory over the No. 5 Grizzlies still festered.
Neal also is a bruising runner for the Bulldogs, and with a chance to kill some clock late in the fourth quarter, Neal took a handoff and bowled over two Grizzlies defenders before dropping the ball.
“I was thinking a lot about it there for a while,” Neal said. “It was tough to make a mistake like that. I’m not used to that, but then again, I thought (my knee) was down.”
When you’re used to winning every game and succeeding on every play, mistakes are magnified. Such is life for all 57 Bulldogs as they improved their regular-season unbeaten streak to 37 games and moved to 5-0 on the season and 1-0 in the rough-and-tumble Sierra Foothill League. Granite Bay fell to 3-1 and 0-1 in the SFL.
37 Consecutive regular-season victories by Folsom
Bulldogs co-coach Troy Taylor called Neal’s number three straight times in the next series, and Neal gained 14 yards and a first down that helped run off the clock and salt the victory.
“I’m glad the coaches had confidence in me (after the fumble),” Neal said. “That really helped me out.”
Folsom co-coach Kris Richardson said there was never a doubt they’d go back to Neal deep in their territory late in the game with a chance to put it away.
“We pride ourselves on not making key turnovers, and (Roger) will see himself on tape and make the improvement,” Richardson said. “But with a guy like Roger, you’re going to give the ball right back to him.”
Neal stands 5-foot-9, and all 205 pounds of his inertia makes opposing defenders wince when he’s running at them and makes opposing running backs rethink their spot on the depth chart when barrels down on them.
On Granite Bay’s first possession, Neal dropped into the passing lanes in a zone read and intercepted the ball at midfield, returning it to the Grizzlies’ 24-yard line. Five plays later, Bulldogs quarterback Jake Jeffrey ran for a three-yard score, and Folsom later took a 21-0 lead before Granite Bay made things interesting in the second quarter with 14 unanswered points.
I’m glad the coaches had confidence in me (after the fumble). That really helped me out.
Folsom running back-linebacker Roger Neal
But Folsom’s defense is starting to make a name for itself as the Bulldogs’ offense, led again by Jeffrey (touchdown runs of three and five yards and a five-yard scoring strike to Christian Huber), continues to grab headlines and airtime. Neal averages 16 tackles per game, while defensive back Matt Torres cleans up anything that Neal may miss. Torres averages 14 tackles per game.
Neal’s tackles total against Granite Bay was not available.
Before the game, Granite Bay honored former player Victor Dew, a Marine who was killed in action five years ago.
Mark Billingsley is a Carmichael-based freelance writer. Reach him at email@example.com or @editorwriter001.