Larry Stallworth was a blue-chip football player as a teenager, a blur athlete for the Grant Pacers in the early 1990s.
He had a taste of the NFL as a receiver, as did kid brother Dante Stallworth, another star of Grant lore.
On Friday night in Del Paso Heights, the elder Stallworth stopped by his old stomping grounds for a peek at today’s mega-star regional athletes, those who sizzle in shoulder pads for Folsom High School.
“I just had to come see what they’re all about,” Stallworth said before a Sierra Foothill League tilt between the top-ranked Bulldogs and No. 10 Grant. “And man, they’re good.”
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The ballistic, national recruit performer that Grant used to overwhelm opponents with now can be found in abundance at Folsom. The Bulldogs put it all on display again in registering a 53-7 blowout at Mike Alberghini Field to move to 8-1 on the season and 5-0 in the SFL.
Grant is 4-5 and 2-3, but can secure a playoff spot with a win in Week 10 against Whitney. Grant has missed the playoffs just twice since 1981, including last season, halting a postseason streak of 26 successive seasons.
Folsom led 32-0 after the first quarter and 46-0 at the half, crisp in all facets, leading one Grant fan to grumble, “That used to be us!”
The only first-half flaw was three missed extra-point attempts. The Bulldogs pulled their starters at the half, the norm this season.
Kaiden Bennett passed for 272 yards and four touchdowns, two to Joe Ngata and one each to Daniyel Ngata and CJ Hutton. Bennett ran for a score and Daniyel Ngata rushed for two. Bennett has passed for 40 touchdowns with no interceptions during his team’s eight-game winning streak.
The team’s opening 14-0 loss at national powerhouse De La Salle continues to serve as a motivator.
“We just kept working and got better,” Bennett said.
Folsom’s lines were dominant on Friday, as was the defense, including interceptions by Calen Nelson, Parker Clayton and Davion Blackwell.
The Bulldogs scored on their first seven possessions of the first half before taking a knee at the Grant 30 to run out the clock. The second half was played with a running clock, another norm for this season.
Folsom has won 35 consecutive games in the SFL since being realigned to that conference before the 2013 season.
This was a match-up of area heavies that have owned the decades. Grant led the region in victories in the 1990s and 2000s, punctuated by seven Sac-Joaquin Section championships and the 2008 CIF State Open Division crown which is still regarded as the breakthrough moment for regional football in general.
Folsom? The Bulldogs have owned this decade, having gone 121-10 with six section and three CIF State banners and two 14-1 teams that lost to De La Salle in Northern California title games.
Alberghini, the Grant coach so revered that the field bears his name, heaped praise on Folsom, acknowledging the Bulldogs’ remarkable skill players, line play, coaching and conditioning.
“They’re the best team around, no doubt about it,” Alberghini said. “Anyone who doesn’t think that isn’t paying attention. I don’t care if they have kids coming in from overseas. They work hard, play hard, are exceptional athletes with great coaches. It’s up to our program to improve and compete with them.”
The “overseas” comment was not a dig or jab on Folson’s top players. The one rub that area coaches cannot seem to fathom is that Bennett and the Ngata brothers grew up in Reno and started their prep careers as freshmen at Folsom.
The bulk of Folsom’s championship teams have grown up through the Folsom junior ranks.
Grant (4-5) showed promise and old grit with spirited wins against Rocklin and Granite Bay, and it nearly toppled No. 2 Del Oro last week, falling 22-21.
The Pacers had some moments against Folsom with big plays behind quarterback Xavier Johnson, but first-half drives stalled out with sacks or interceptions or punts. And the mistakes were reflective of youth as Grant fields its youngest team in Alberghini’s long tenure as coach, including the 1980s as defensive coordinator and as head coach since 1991.
Folsom coaches and players understand the history of Grant and spoke admiringly about the Pacers tradition.
The programs met for the first time in 2010 in a regular-season opener at Folsom that was televised by ESPN. Grant rolled 49-14, but Folsom responded by winning the final 14 games of the season, including blasting past Grant in the section Division II finals 41-20, en route to the program’s first CIF state banner.
Grant throttled Folsom in the 2011 opener, 43-16. The programs last played in the 2014 NorCal finals with Folsom prevailing behind Jake Browning and Jonah Williams, 52-21, en route to a 16-0 season and another CIF crown.
“Grant was who we were chasing when we started to really get going in 2010,” Folsom coach Kris Richardson said. “We thought, ‘let’s see who we can schedule to get better,’ and it was Grant. They kicked our teeth in. It was a defining moment for our program, and we worked hard to get better.
“It’s an honor to play here. We know how great Grant’s been and coach Alberghini.”