Joe Davidson

Practice watchdogs, Folsom’s run, QB talent and other prep football storylines to watch

Meet 25 Sacramento-area high school football senior stars

The Sacramento Bee highlights 25 high school seniors expecting to make an impact on the football field: in the trenches, skill players and defenders.
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The Sacramento Bee highlights 25 high school seniors expecting to make an impact on the football field: in the trenches, skill players and defenders.

The Bee’s Joe Davidson breaks down five storylines sure to shape the high school football season:

Watchdog era

High school football is supposed to be about festive Friday nights, a gathering of students, families and community, and that is true for the most part in this region. But a troubling trend is emerging. An increasing number of uninvited guests visited practices this summer hoping to catch a coach running an out-of-season drill. They attempt to take cellphone videos and photos to forward to the Sac-Joaquin Section office. Several area coaches told The Bee that they have chased off people with cellphones, adding their drills were legal. The images have cost a number of area programs practice days as punishment in recent years as coaches continue to learn when hitting is allowed, or when instructional pads can be used, despite guidelines posted on the section site and widely distributed to schools. Video clips were the final straw this season for Whitney, which violated a CIF practice/contact sanction for the fifth time in two-plus years. The section banned Whitney from the playoffs this season and the school replaced coach Paul Doherty, whom players and parents are campaigning to have reinstated.

Folsom’s staying power

Is this the season the top-ranked Folsom express derails or at least stalls? The Bulldogs have devoured all comers on the local menu since 2011 except one, a run that includes four section championships. Folsom plays at No. 2 Jesuit on Sept. 1, then at powerhouse Oakdale, then a rematch with Sacramento, which pulled an upset last season. Folsom follows with a Sierra Foothill League schedule that includes No. 3 Granite Bay, No. 4 Oak Ridge, No. 5 Del Oro and No. 9 Rocklin.

To rise again

Nevada Union and Bear River dominated the large- and small-school levels for years before Nevada Union’s decline this decade and Bear River’s slide last season after the Bruins posted 25 consecutive non-losing seasons. The dip is reflective of declining enrollment in a Grass Valley/Lake of the Pines region that is no longer growing, leading to the Miners dropping the junior varsity program this season due to low participation numbers. Both programs appear ready to rise a bit this fall. The same can be said for Pleasant Grove, which went 0-10 last season and is rejuvenated under the fiery spirit of first-year coach Matt Costa.

QB talent primer

There are national recruits to be found in the trenches, including Grant’s UCLA-bound Niti Liu, but what about the most critical player on the field – the quarterback? There are no Ian Book (Oak Ridge and Notre Dame) or Jake Browning (Folsom, Washington) sorts, but one player is sure to stretch and buckle defenses again. Marco Baldacchino of Oak Ridge is slight in build but big in ability as perhaps the section’s top dual-threat leader.

Loyal to what works

This region is full of diverse play styles, unlike past decades when seemingly every program latched onto the wing-T schemes populated by Mira Loma, Elk Grove and Nevada Union. Folsom sticks with the spread offense, Grant and Sheldon to a pro-set, Del Oro to the run in any scheme, John Heffernan to the triple-option as the new coach at Elk Grove after 15 playoff seasons at Burbank, Monterey Trail and Jesuit to the veer and Placer to the wing-T.

Joe Davidson: 916-321-1280, @SacBee_JoeD

THE BEE’S PREP FOOTBALL 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 (8-3), 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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