Joe Davidson

Football heavyweights Folsom and De La Salle to collide in 2018 season opener

After De La Salle rolled Folsom in the CIF Northern California Open Division finals in 2012 and 2013, the programs will meet to kick off the 2018 season.
After De La Salle rolled Folsom in the CIF Northern California Open Division finals in 2012 and 2013, the programs will meet to kick off the 2018 season. Sacramento Bee file

Weeks of discussion have resulted in the game of the year for the 2018 high school football season lining up to be the first one of the season.

Folsom High School, the Sac-Joaquin Section’s premier powerhouse this decade, will face the standard-bearer program for all of Northern California in an Aug. 17 season opener.

De La Salle will host the Bulldogs in Concord in what figures to be a showdown between Northern California’s top teams and, perhaps, two of the top-five clubs by Cal-Hi Sports entering the campaign. De La Salle and Folsom have finished Nos. 1 and 2 in the final MaxPreps NorCal rankings in five of the last six seasons.

The schools confirmed the two-year contract to The Bee on Thursday. De La Salle will visit Folsom in the third week of the 2019 season.

A Folsom victory would be significant as no NorCal team has toppled the Spartans since Pittsburg in the 1991 North Coast Section Division I final.

Since then, De La Salle has crafted a 289-game unbeaten streak against NorCal teams (north of Fresno).

A snapshot of the Spartans’ dominance:

▪ Since 1984, De La Salle has gone 373-5-2 against NorCal competition;

▪ De La Salle is 441-24-3 overall since 1982;

▪ Since 1992, De La Salle has finished No. 1 in the Cal-Hi State rankings a remarkable 18 times;

▪ The Spartans also famously own the all-levels football winning streak of 151 games, ending in 2004.

Folsom was a small-school power in the 1960s under coach Dewey Guerra and won section titles in Division III and II, respectively, under coach Tom Doherty in 1989 and ’90. Folsom is 111-9 this decade with six section titles and three CIF State championships under coach Kris Richardson, whose spread-option teams set regional scoring marks and send scores of athletes on to Division I college football.

Richardson said a good effort against De La Salle will be telling for his program, which returns 17 starters from a 16-0 CIF State Division I-AA championship team, including Bee Players of the Year Joe Ngata, a receiver, and quarterback Kaiden Bennett.

And it’ll quiet critics, too, he said. Social media rumblings for years have suggested Richardson avoids scheduling powerhouse programs, never mind that Folsom tried to schedule De La Salle in recent years.

“We don’t want any of the gate (proceeds) and we don’t even need a second-year game: We just want to play you,” Richardson said of his message to De La Salle athletic director Leo Lopoz. “It’ll be a great game. If we win, it’ll be incredible. If we lose a close game, we’ll learn from it. If we get our teeth kicked in, we’ll grow from it. And everyone will back off any talk of avoiding teams.”

No section team has defeated De La Salle since the program rose to power in 1980 under coach Bob Ladouceur, now an assistant coach to Justin Alumbaugh. The Spartans since 1980 have gone 39-0 against this section, the second largest of the 10 in the state. De La Salle victories this decade include five over St. Mary’s of Stockton, three over Del Oro, two over Folsom and one each over Jesuit and Granite Bay.

The Folsom setbacks were in the CIF NorCal Open Division finals in 2012 and 2013 when the Bulldogs had 14-0 seasons derailed by the Spartans, 49-15 and 45-17.

The CIF dropped the NorCal Open concept after those two attempts, conceding that De La Salle was so overwhelmingly better than the rest of Northern California that the Spartans should be the CIF NorCal Open entry as long as they kept winning North Coast Section titles. The Spartans have won 26 successive NCS titles.

Folsom has three CIF state crowns this decade. De La Salle has gone 7-5 in state bowls, falling in December to national No. 1 Mater Dei of Santa Ana in the Open final at Sacramento State.

De La Salle will host Central Catholic of Modesto on Aug. 24. Central Catholic has four CIF banners to its credit, second most in the North to De La Salle. Folsom’s Aug. 24 game will be against Jesuit, which returns a wealth of players and will likely be preseason-ranked No. 2 by The Bee and in the NorCal top five.

Folsom’s Sierra Foothill League schedule will include powerhouse programs Oak Ridge, Granite Bay, Rocklin, Del Oro and league newcomer Grant.

Joe Davidson: 916-321-1280, @SacBee_JoeD