Joe Davidson

‘Living the dream’: Bee’s Top 5 football teams a testament to ultra competitive league

Up-close look at Del Oro, Folsom and Oak Ridge football practices

Go inside the huddle and between the lines as the Del Oro, Folsom and Oak Ridge high school football teams practice for the upcoming season.
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Go inside the huddle and between the lines as the Del Oro, Folsom and Oak Ridge high school football teams practice for the upcoming season.

It’s officially called the Sierra Foothill League, but come on.

We know better.

The SFL really could stand for Superior Football League as it casts a towering display of dominance.

The SFL is a collection of some of the most storied programs in regional history, dating back decades, with a collective show of championship might since 2010.

So it is fitting to have the top SFL teams ranked in the final installment of The Bee’s Top 20 countdown: the top five.

Folsom, Del Oro and Granite Bay have combined to win four CIF State Bowl games this decade to go with 12 section championships.

Oak Ridge reached the Division I section finals twice this decade, falling to Granite Bay and Folsom. Delta League member Jesuit has its own glossy history, and that can be polished up even more as the Marauders open the season at Granite Bay before hosting Folsom.

Del Oro ushers in new coach Jeff Walters, an alum of the school returning to where he started coaching. The challenge doesn’t intimidate Walters. It inspires him.

“Love it, and living the dream,” Walters said with smile.

Said Oak Ridge coach Eric Cavaliere of the SFL grind, “You find out how good you are. A great, great league.”

• The Bee’s 16-20: Christian Brothers, Whitney, Del Campo, Placer, Vista del Lago

• The Bee’s 11-15: Franklin, Sheldon, Sacramento, Antelope, Cosumnes Oaks

• The Bee’s 6-10: Elk Grove, Inderkum, Grant, Rocklin, Capital Christian

The Bee’s Top 20 countdown (Nos. 1-5)

1. Folsom (12-2 in 2016)

Coach: Kris Richardson

League: Sierra Foothill

Enrollment: 2,300

Division: I

School opened: 1922

Opener: Vs. Couer d’Alene-Idaho, Aug. 25

Pedigree: Seven league, five Sac-Joaquin Section and two CIF State championships since 2010 under Richardson, and ranked No. 1 by The Bee every week since the 2012 kickoff.

The skinny: Richardson said Folsom is “much better” than last season, which was another strong showing. Thirteen starters return, including receiver/defensive back Joe Ngata, running back/cornerback Brandon Rupchock and two-way lineman Noah Lunday, and 2016 backup quarterback Kaiden Bennett is poised for a breakthrough.

Running back Lorenzo Burkes (15) and No. 2 Jesuit open the season against No. 3 Granite Bay and No. 1 Folsom. Andrew Seng

2. Jesuit (9-4)

Coach: Marlon Blanton

League: Delta

Enrollment: 2,142

Division: I

School opened: 1963

Opener: Vs. Granite Bay, Aug. 25

Pedigree: Nine playoff teams since 2004. Two section titles, the last in 2002.

The skinny: This could be the school’s best team since 1998 or 2002 with as good a backfield as there is in the region with quarterback Josh Farr and running backs Lorenzo Burkes and Isaiah Rutherford, who has an offer from Alabama. Leading tacklers Jason Gallagher and Joseph Hagopian also return.

20151106_DO Granite Bay 0296
Granite Bay coach Jeff Evans welcomes back 15 starters for a program that seeks its 19th consecutive playoff berth and sixth Sac-Joaquin Section championship. Brian Baer Sacramento Bee file

3. Granite Bay (4-7)

Coach: Jeff Evans

League: Sierra Foothill

Enrollment: 2,035

Division: I

School opened: 1996

Opener: At Jesuit, Aug. 25

Pedigree: Eighteen consecutive playoff teams, five section titles since 1999 and the 2012 CIF State Division I championship.

The skinny: Evans has his most talented and experienced team since taking over for program-founding coach Ernie Cooper, now blissfully leading the freshman team. Cal-bound seniors Will Craig (a lineman) and Evan Tattersall (a running back/linebacker) lead 15 returning starters, and the junior varsity team went 9-1.

20161021 DEL ORO OR 1722
Oak Ridge dual-threat quarterback Marco Baldacchino (2) is one of the region’s most dynamic players and a returning Bee All-Metro leader. Brian Baer Sacramento Bee file

4. Oak Ridge (10-3)

Coach: Eric Cavaliere

League: Sierra Foothill

Enrollment: 2,522

Division: I

School opened: 1980

Opener: Vs. Vista del Lago, Aug. 25

Pedigree: Twenty-seven playoff teams, four section Division II titles since 1998 and two D-I title-game appearances since 2012.

The skinny: The Trojans return dynamic All-Metro quarterback Marco Baldacchino and usher in Folsom transfer running back Davin Simmons (cousin of Baldacchino). They also have UNLV-commit lineman Bryan Catchings and every-down, all-purpose star Justin Poerio from a team that lost to Folsom in Week 10 on a late bad bounce.

Dawson Hurst (47) is the third and final Hurst brother to play for Del Oro, and he will play running back and defensive back. Randall Benton Sacramento Bee file

5. Del Oro (13-3)

Coach: Jeff Walters

League: Sierra Foothill

Enrollment: 1,716

Division: II

School opened: 1959

Opener: Vs. Cathedral Catholic-San Diego, Aug. 25

Pedigree: 27 playoff teams, including 13 of 14, and 11 section titles (five this decade).

The skinny: Walters returns to coach his alma mater, replacing Casey Taylor, now at Capital Christian. The Golden Eagles return leading tackler Andrew Birch and have a formidable four-headed backfield with quarterback Josh Gazzaniga and running backs Bryce Edwards, Dawson Hurst and Max Gallagher.

Joe Davidson: 916-321-1280, @SacBee_JoeD, JoeDavidsonMedia on Instragram, sacbeepreps on Facebook.

The Bee’s Top 20

(With last year’s record)

1. Folsom 12-2

2. Jesuit 9-4

3. Granite Bay 4-7

4. Oak Ridge 10-3

5. Del Oro 13-3

6. Elk Grove 11-2

7. Inderkum 11-3

8. Grant 8-4

9. Rocklin 4-6

10. Capital Christian 11-3

11. Franklin 5-5

12. Sheldon 8-4

13. Sacramento 10-2

14. Antelope 12-1

15. Cosumnes Oaks 8-4

16. Christian Brothers 11-3

17. Whitney 6-5

18. Del Campo 6-6

19. Placer 7-6

20. Vista del Lago 8-4

Bubble teams: Monterey Trail (5-6), Roseville (9-2), Cordova (7-4), Burbank (7-5), Davis (5-6), Yuba City (8-4), Colfax (9-4), Woodcreek (4-6), El Dorado (7-3), Center (8-4), Marysville (9-3), Bear River (3-7), Bradshaw Christian (12-1), Liberty Ranch (8-3), River City (6-5).

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