It kicks off Friday.
A high school football season of high hopes includes top-ranked Folsom heading to Contra Costa County for a titanic opener, Placer loading up for another run at a CIF State championship and scores of others trying to get off on the right foot.
Folsom went 16-0 last year and returns 15 starters from its CIF State Division I-AA title team. It starts at De La Salle, which has been in a state championship every season it’s been held since 2006. De La Salle is preseason ranked third in the state by Cal-Hi Sports and Folsom is fourth. In the MaxPreps, NorCalPreps and Sportstars NorCal rankings, De La Salle and Folsom are No. 1 and No. 2.
De La Salle is 30-0 against Sac-Joaquin Section competition since 1982, including regular-season wins this decade against Del Oro (three times), Granite Bay (once) and Jesuit (once). The Spartans ended Folsom’s season at 14-1 in both the 2012 and 2013 CIF Northern California Open Division final.
Several Folsom coaches attended De La Salle’s home scrimmage on Friday night, which included Bee No. 2 Jesuit. Bulldogs assistant coach Bobby Fresques came away impressed, saying of De La Salle, “They look like an incredible high school team. We look like an incredible high school team. It’ll be fun.”
De La Salle preseason All-American linebacker Henry To’oto’o was sidelined Friday with a walking boot for a precaution. Said Spartans coach Justin Alumbaugh, “Henry will be ready to go Friday. He’ll be 100 percent.”
De La Salle may have its most athletic and swift defense in a decade, and the Spartans will be challenged by Folsom’s fleet of receivers, including Clemson-bound Joe Ngata and fellow national recruit Elijah Badger. Bulldogs quarterback Kaiden Bennett is a pass-run threat unlike his predecessor, Jake Browning, who set national passing records in high school and is a dark-horse Heisman Trophy candidate at Washington.
Browning impressed De La Salle coaches when he faced the Spartans in 2012 and 2013 as a sophomore and junior. Said De La Salle defensive coordinator Terry Eidson, “At every level — NFL college or high school — you face a quarterback who can throw and run equally well, it’s very difficult to prepare. (Bennett) is a handful.
“The last time we faced (Folsom), they had Jake Browning. Obviously, he was pretty special. So is Bennett, but in a different way.”
On Ngata, Eidson said, “If you’re going to Clemson, you’re probably pretty good. They recruit nothing but special athletes.”
Said Alumbaugh of Folsom, “They’re really good. They have a lot of team speed, great receivers, a great quarterback and the line and defense is super solid. They’re every bit as good as they’re cracked up to be. They play hard, are talented and well coached. It’s a huge challenge, and we love to challenge the kids.”
The game will not be televised but it will be streamed live on www.folsom.tv.
Hillmen time — With 17 returning starters, No. 6 Placer is poised to reach another CIF State title game and perhaps even improve on its 13-2 showing last fall.
The Hillmen open against Pleasant Grove on Friday, heavy on skill players such as quarterback Michael Stuck and running back Marshall Chapman. And they’re heavy in the trenches with Oregon-bound Joey Capra and Nevada-bound Blake Baughman.
Club 200 — Tony Martello of Colfax is a victory away from joining the 200-win club.
The Falcons open against Golden Sierra on Friday. Martello is in his 23rd season at Colfax, where he graduated in 1982. He has led 21 playoff teams and reached the section finals nine times, winning three. He is 199-52-1 at Colfax.
“It’s more heartfelt coaching at your old school,” Martello said last fall. “Small-town coaching is the greatest job in America.”
Colfax returns 12 starters, including receivers Jake Green and Colton Reeves, lineman Jake Lahaie and running back Dylan Owens.
Other area coaches to win 200 games include Mike Alberghini of Grant; Dan Carmazzi of Jesuit and Christian Brothers (now retired); Ed Lombardi, who coached several programs, including Elk Grove and Sheldon locally and is retired; Max Miller, mostly from two stints at Cordova and is now retired; Geoff Wahl of East Nicolaus (now retired); Frank Negri of Foothill (now an assistant at Rio Linda) and, from last season, Dave Humphers at River Valley as co-coach with Brennan McFadden (after a long stint at Nevada Union) and Terry Stark at Inderkum.
Opening week schedule
All games kick off between 7-7:30 p.m.
No. 1 Folsom at De La Salle
No. 3 Oak Ridge at Lincoln
No. 4 Del Oro at Amador Valley
Monte Vista at No. 5 Granite Bay
No. 6 Placer vs. Pleasant Grove at Sheldon
No. 13 Elk Grove at No. 7 Inderkum
No. 9 Sheldon at No. 8 Monterey Trail
No. 10 Antelope at No. 12 Rocklin
No. 11 Sacramento at Rancho Cotate
Davis at No. 14 Grant
No. 15 Capital Christian at Cosumnes Oaks
No. 16 River Valley at Woodland
Merced at No. 17 Del Campo
No. 18 Christian Brothers at Burbank
No. 19 Bear River at South Tahoe
Bella Vista at No. 20 Casa Roble
Byes: No. 2 Jesuit
Brookside Christian at Rio Vista
Cordova at Vista del Lago
Delta Charter at Delta
El Camino at Oakmont
El Dorado at Argonaut
Escalon at Union Mine
Florin at Rosemont
Franklin at McNair
Golden Sierra at Colfax
Johnson at Liberty Ranch
Marysville at Natomas
Mesa Verde at Lindhurst
Mira Loma at Foothill
Nevada Union at Yuba City
Rio Americano at Woodcreek
Rio Linda at Center
River City at Ponderosa
Roseville at Bear Creek
Foresthill at Turlock Christian
Western Sierra at Sierra Ridge
Woodland Christian at Denair
Encina at California School for the Deaf
Salesian at Bradshaw Christian
Valley vs. Laguna Creek at Cosumnes River College
The Bee’s preseason Top 20 high school football teams
Last season’s record in parentheses:
1. Folsom (16-0)
2. Jesuit (10-3)
3. Oak Ridge (11-2)
4. Del Oro (8-6)
5. Granite Bay (12-3)
6. Placer (13-2)
7. Inderkum (11-1)
8. Monterey Trail (6-5)
9. Sheldon (9-3)
10. Antelope (10-2)
11. Sacramento (10-2)
12. Rocklin (7-5)
13. Elk Grove (5-6)
14. Grant (4-6)
15. Capital Christian (7-4)
16. River Valley (7-4)
17. Del Campo (12-1)
18. Christian Brothers (10-3)
19. Bear River (10-4)
20. Casa Roble (6-6)
Bubble teams: Bradshaw Christian (8-4), Burbank (6-5), Center (7-6), Colfax (9-4), Cordova (7-4), Cosumnes Oaks (5-6), El Dorado (7-4), Franklin (7-4), Laguna Creek (5-5), Lincoln (8-3), Rio Americano (6-5), Rio Linda (7-5), River City (7-4), Vista del Lago (7-5), Whitney (5-5), Woodland (7-5), Yuba City (6-5).