It’s a simple formula that has brewed, percolated and boiled over famously at the high school level here.
Keep the quarterback upright, find the open guy amid mismatches, and defend and compete like mad.
All of that played out again on Friday night at Prairie City Stadium, where the top-seeded Folsom Bulldogs routed fourth-seeded Elk Grove 41-3 in a bitingly cold Sac-Joaquin Section Division I semifinal expected to be a great deal closer.
Folsom has the unique ability to make a close matchup on paper before kickoff become a rout in a hurry. The Bulldogs (12-1) won their large-school record 19th consecutive section playoff game as they marched into their seventh title game. Folsom seeks a section five-peat, including four in a row in D-I, which would match the famed Cordova Lancers of the late 1970s for the most in succession at the D-I level.
And it all boils down to fundamentals and approach.
Joe Curry, sacked just once in the final three quarters, passed for 396 yards and had scoring strikes of 73, 55 and 5 yards to, in order, Drake Stallworth, Jack Sa and Eric Davis.
“We’ve protected our quarterback really well this year, and it’s still the same old mantra: if we protect, we’ll do just fine,” Folsom coach Kris Richardson said. “The passing game opens up the run game. We get fast tempo, and then the next thing you know, the defense is gassed, and away we go.”
Folsom led 21-3 at the half and 28-3 after three as Brandon Rupchock rushed for scores of 4, 25 and 2 yards, and the defense was strong in eliminating the Herd from the postseason for the third time in recent years. The Bulldogs play second-seeded St. Mary’s of Stockton (12-1) at 6 p.m. next Saturday at Sacramento State.
Curry gets the headlines as all prolific Folsom passers do. The poised senior has passed for 3,492 yards and 46 touchdowns, but he’s quick to point to skill players such as Stallworth, Davis and Rupchock for the help.
“Rupchock is pound-for-pound one of the best players around,” Richarson said. “We’ve got a lot of guys who make plays.”
The Folsom offensive line of Blake Christierson, Kaivan Khazeni, Dominic Langham, Noah Lunday and David Ruiz isn’t a field-tilting, shadow-casting lot of recent seasons with 300-pounders Cody Creason (now playing at Arizona), Kooper Richardson (UC Davis) and Jonah Williams (Alabama).
“We don’t have that 6-5, 300-pound guy walking around, but we’re still pretty good, playing hard,” Richardson said.
Elk Grove’s (11-2) players and coaches spoke admiringly of Folsom this week in practice.
“With so many teams in our section now, it’s amazing that a program like Folsom can dominate for as long as it has,” Elk Grove coach Chris Nixon said. “It doesn’t happen without great coaches and committed athletes. They’re very, very impressive.”
Said Elk Grove quarterback Jayden Machado, “It’s amazing what they’ve done at Folsom. I definitely appreciate what they do.”
And how does one slow down a speeding bullet?
“It’s not easy,” Elk Grove defensive coordinator Jeff Carlson said. “They spread you out. You just don’t see that at this level. It’s a great challenge. You want to go against the best, and they’ve been that every year.”