Joe Davidson

Folsom had every chance to beat De La Salle. But the Spartans ‘knew every single play’

Kris Richardson alluded to it leading into Friday.

One of the staples of De La Salle’s remarkable stranglehold on Northern California competition on the high school football front is how the Spartans prepare.

Richardson, Folsom’s veteran coach, has long appreciated this approach, having grown up “in the shadow of De La Salle.” And the admiration grows.

To witness the De La Wow experience from afar is entirely different than in person. De La Salle had Folsom figured out in a season opener in Concord in an era when most are grasping and gasping in an effort to slow the Bulldogs.

Folsom had five turnovers, four in the first half inside the Spartans’ territory, and two second-half touchdowns lifted De La Salle to a 14-0 conquest in a battle of the top two teams in Northern California the past six seasons.


De La Salle expertly contained Kaiden Bennett, Folsom’s dynamo dual-threat quarterback, and that was the make-or-break X-factor. It marks as great a defensive effort in the storied history of the Spartans, who rose to power in the early 1980s and still cast an imposing shadow to the tune of a 291-game unbeaten streak against NorCal competition north of Fresno since 1992.

But the gap is closing.

Folsom gave De La Salle the most trouble of any regional team in the last 27 years.

And Folsom should be seething. The Bulldogs had every chance to seize this one. De La Salle wouldn’t allow it.

“We prepped the entire summer for these guys,” De La Salle coach Justin Alumbaugh said. “The reason why is because they’re outstanding. Those guys are a great team. That was a great game. That was a like a state-championship-caliber game right there.”

De La Salle coaches broke down plays from its 2012 and 2013 NorCal Open Division wins over Folsom, and then they pored over film from last season. The Spartans studied plays, players and tendencies. And then they delivered the first shutout of Folsom since 2004 against a team that returned eight starters from an offense that scored 770 points during a 16-0 season in 2017.

Said national recruit defensive end/tight end Isaiah Foskey, “We knew every single play they did from, like, years. We watched 2012 film, 2013 film, when they played us. We’ve been watching film every single day.”

Folsom also played stellar defense, leading Richardson to say, “If we play defense like that all season, we’ll win another state championship.”

How Folsom responds from here will be telling.

“We’ll have a chip for sure now,” said Folsom center Kaden Richardson, son of the coach. “That’s a good thing.”

Coach Richardson challenged his team before the season about what their legacy will be. It cannot be last season. And it cannot be about Friday with turnovers and pass-protection breakdowns.

“I think we’ll be just fine,” the coach said with a smile.

History repeats?

Folsom lost its season opener to Grant in 2010 on ESPN, which at that time was the biggest regional opener in history. Then the Bulldogs took it personally, ripping off a 14-game winning streak to win the first of three CIF State titles.

Grant was state-ranked No. 1 for 14 weeks by Cal-Hi Sports, then suffered the Folsom loss in the rematch. The last area team to finish No. 1 in NorCal by Cal-Hi is Cordova in 1979.

Folsom must guard against falling to 0-2; its next opponent is Bee No. 2 Jesuit, which could have its best team — ever.

Still, section champions earn automatic berths to the NorCal Regional finals. Folsom won’t contend in the prestigious CIF Open Division, but back-to-back state titles has a nice ring to it.

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De La Salle class

Another staple for De La Salle is how it competes. The Spartans do not taunt, do not showboat.

The program doesn’t flaunt its football history. Owen Owens field does not bear reminders of the streaks or championships, though the school has earned that right to highlight the pedigree.

Even the fans are civil in an era of rabid competition in the stands, with a good many applauding the talent and effort of Folsom.

Folsom (non)reaction to bad call

The referees botched a big call late in the first half when running back Daniyel Ngata’s knee clearly hit the ground before the ball came out as he approached the end zone.

De La Salle was awarded the ball, but Folsom players and coaches refused to use that as an excuse and didn’t even mention it until media asked about it.

“We go in 7-0 (at the half), it’s a big difference,” coach Richardson said. “But that wasn’t the reason we lost. We didn’t execute offensively, didn’t play to the best of our ability.”

PREP_JV_081618_ 347
Folsom Bulldogs’ Daniyel Ngata touches his knee to the turf short of the goal line before losing the football in the second quarter against De La Salle on Friday in Concord. Jose Luis Villegas

PREP_JV_081618_ 348
Folsom Bulldogs’ Daniyel Ngata loses the ball as he crosses the goal line in the second quarter against De La Salle on Friday in Concord. Jose Luis Villegas

Numbers game

Best streak number of them all? De La Salle’s unbeaten regional run has been extended to 9,750 days, thanks to the quick math of our media friend Darren Sabedra of the Bay Area News Group.

Since 1984, De La Salle is 374-5-2 against NorCal opponents and is 442-24-3 overall since 1982. It has not lost to a NorCal team at home since 1989.

De La Salle is 31-0 against the Sac-Joaquin Section since 1980, including delivering these marks this decade against area heavies: 3-0 against Folsom, 3-0 against Del Oro and 1-0 against Jesuit and Granite Bay.

Del Oro influence

A special assist goes to Del Oro for this game even happening. Amador Valley was originally scheduled to open against De La Salle, but Amador Valley coaches heard of Folsom’s desire to take on De La Salle. They reached out to the Del Oro staff, creating a window for Folsom-De La Salle. Del Oro beat Amador Valley on Friday 49-27.

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