De La Salle broke in a new field on Friday night, a fancy all-weather surface that’s ideal for teams geared for speed.
Normally, that screams of good news for the Folsom Bulldogs, who feed off of defenses that are turned inside out and upside down in trying to slow a freight train seemingly charging downhill. But Folsom was in an uphill fight from the start, stalled by its own miscues and the defensive speed and tenacity of the most storied high school football program in the country.
De La Salle prevailed 14-0 in Concord in a battle of Northern California’s top two teams the past six seasons, reducing the most celebrated and anticipated opener in regional history into a learning experience in how not to deal with the Spartans. The Bulldogs had four first-half turnovers inside De La Salle territory, punted four times, turned it over twice on downs, made uncharacteristic mistakes and generally looked out of sorts in suffering their first shutout since 2004, a year before Kris Richardson took over as head coach.
Richardson addressed his team after the game, and he had a captive audience. He stressed that no one can beat De La Salle with five total turnovers, adding, “Hey, it sucks to lose. I hate it as much as you do. This isn’t the end of the season. I love you guys. We get back to work Monday.”
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He told The Bee later, “that’s why we play a game like this early — find out what we have. It’s no fun to lose like that, but this game will help us in the long run. We’ll get better. I’m beyond encouraged.”
Said Richardson’s son, Kaden, a Bee All-Metro center in 2017, “We learned that we can’t have turnovers like that, or penalties. But those are all fixable. I liked our fight. We had guys limping who didn’t want to leave the game. Everyone was balling. The defense played great. We’ve got to pass protect better, and that’s on me and the guys.”
Folsom is known to score in bunches, the trademark for CIF State championship teams in 2010, 2014 and 2017. Fifteen starters off the 2017 team returned, eager to flex its muscle against the Spartans, who sport their best defense in 10 years, coaches say.
That De La Salle pitched a shutout is testament to the defense led by coordinator Terry Eidson, a unit led by national recruit Henry To’oto’o. The senior linebacker grew up in Sacramento and played his freshman season at Burbank. He had a flock of family in attendance.
Folsom’s defense had moments, too, including forcing four first-half De La Salle punts. The Spartans won this fight also behind their first sophomore to start a season opener in 20 years. Dorian Hale tossed a 17-yard touchdown to Isiah Foskey, another national recruit, and he ran for a 1-yard score to make it 14-0.
So, what does it mean? For Folsom, it means more work, especially with Bee No. 2 Jesuit looming next week. For De La Salle, it’s more shine and gloss to the pedigree that is already without compare.
De La Salle extended its unbeaten streak against Northern California teams north of Fresno to 291, since 1992. The Spartans have gone 3-0 against Del Oro this decade, 3-0 against Folsom and 1-0 against Jesuit and Granite Bay. The area’s very best has come up short against a powerhouse that some consider the greatest football dynasty in U.S. history.
And for good measure, De La Salle remained unbeaten at home against NorCal teams since 1989. This program has the copyright on gaudy streaks, not to mention the unfathomable 151-game winning streak that ended in 2005, a run of 12 consecutive perfect seasons.
Folsom had some moments. Joe Ngata had 56 receiving yards from Kaiden Bennett, and brother Daniyel Ngata rushed for 82 yards, but had a 64-yard run negated by penalty. His most frustrating effort was when he chugged down to the De La Salle 1, and his knee hit the turf. The ball popped out and De La Salle was awarded the ball.
It was that sort of night.