Joe Davidson

Sizing up football openers: It’s not just Folsom-De La Salle that sizzles with intrigue

Sheldon High School quarterback Francisco Salinas passes against Grant on Oct. 20, 2017.
Sheldon High School quarterback Francisco Salinas passes against Grant on Oct. 20, 2017. Sacramento Bee file

Remember the days when high school football started after Labor Day, in September?

Seems so long ago.

Games across the state start Friday, the earliest ever, in large part because CIF member schools voted to move the athletic calender up in recent years to avoid sporting-event conflicts with Christmas vacation and graduation/senior trip getaways.

Players don’t mind the change. It’s game time. Coaches are mixed.

“It’s bad for high school football because it takes away a lot of the summer for the kids, for all of us,” Jesuit coach Marlon Blanton said. “But we’ll play.”

A peek at five Friday night openers of note (kickoffs between 7-7:30 p.m.)

No. 1 Folsom at De La Salle

The last time an area team finished the season ranked No. 1 in Northern California by Cal-Hi Sports was Cordova in 1979. A Folsom win here could change all of that, not to mention throwing a forearm to the facemask of a major dynasty. De La Salle has not lost to a NorCal team in 27 years, an unbeaten streak of 290 games. It’ll be Folsom’s cast of skill players – QB Kaiden Bennett, WRs Joe Ngata and Elijhah Badger and RB Daniyel Ngata – against a fast, active De La Salle defense led by a host of national recruits.

The game will be aired on

No. 3 Oak Ridge at Lincoln

Big, brawny quarterbacks face off as Tommy Turner of Lincoln takes on Matt Jenner of the Trojans, who dazzled in the playoffs in relief of injured starter Marco Baldacchino, now graduated. Lincoln lost to Del Oro in the playoffs last season on a late field goal, which would’ve been the biggest win in program history. A win here will do the trick.

No. 9 Sheldon at No. 8 Monterey Trail

These were Delta League rivals for years before realignment shifted Monterey Trail into the Metropolitan Conference, so why not an opening-night tussle instead? A year ago, Sheldon prevailed 35-20 as Francisco Salinas completed four passes for 270 yards and three touchdowns to offset the versatility of MT’s Zach Larrier, a runner and passer. Both are back this season.

No. 10 Antelope at No. 12 Rocklin

Antelope coach Matt Ray has had 10-win and 12-win teams derailed in the playoffs in recent years, including falling to Sierra Foothill League members Del Oro and Granite Bay in the past two postseasons. So what does the coach do now? He schedules two more SFL heavies this season to test his club, starting with Rocklin and at Folsom on Aug. 31. Rocklin is led by QB Cade Wyant, who will be pursued by DE Carter Sullivan.

No. 15 Capital Christian at Cosumnes Oaks

Opened in 1977 and a small-school power this decade, this is the first time Capital Christian has played a school as large as Cosumnes Oaks with 2,000 or more students. Capital has 400 students, including some swift football players in RB D’Marcus Ross, QB/DB Damion Malott and RB/DB Trey Jones. CO counters with three-year starting RB Jacob Trach, WR Elijah King and QB Anthony Grigsby.

Opening week schedule

All games kick off between 7-7:30 p.m.

Top 20

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

Other games

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

Related stories from Sacramento Bee