Joe Davidson

Familiar faces, facemasks as Folsom meets Central; 5 area teams play for NorCal titles

Rio Linda leads Casa Roble for Divison IV title

Rio Linda wins the Division IV title against Casa Roble, Saturday, December 1, 2018, at the Whitney High School stadium.
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Rio Linda wins the Division IV title against Casa Roble, Saturday, December 1, 2018, at the Whitney High School stadium.

Familiarity is among the immeasurables this time of year.

For the Folsom High School football team, several recognizable numbers for its opponent will trot onto Deran Koligan Stadium in Fresno on Friday night to face Central, the two-time large-school Central Section champion that rolls in at 13-0.

This will be for the CIF Northern California Division I-AA championship, played a year after Folsom defeated the Grizzlies for the same prize in Folsom, 54-35.

Five area teams play this weekend, and a sixth - Colfax - will have a bye tied to smoke and a coin flip.

Folsom (12-1) has steamed all comers since opening with a 14-0 loss at national power De La Salle. With 16 starters back from a 16-0 team, the Bulldogs expected to be here, if, perhaps not expecting to be on the road.

CIF Associate Executive Director Ron Nocetti said each NorCal bracket has two teams, so there is no emphasis on state ranking, strength of schedule or pedigree. In an effort to spread out the games, Folsom was deemed the travel team, in part because it has hosted NorCal finals in recent seasons.

“We’ll be ready to go, regardless,” Folsom coach Kris Richardson said.

Kaiden Bennett played well against Central last year and has been superb in two varsity seasons in maintaining the program’s quarterback legacy. Bennett passed for 306 yards and four touchdowns against Central, three to Joe Ngata and one to Elijhah Badger. Bennett also rushed for a score, and Daniyel Ngata ran for 126 yards and two touchdowns.

Each of those players is back, as are linemen leaders Kaden Richardson and Tyler Hardeman. Bennett has passed for 3,717 yards and 56 touchdowns with no interceptions during a 12-game winning streak.

He passed for 323 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 126 and three scores in a 63-25 rout of Monterey Trail on Saturday night in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship.

The familiarity goes both ways. Folsom will remember the Central leader wearing jersey No. 18 - Trent Tompkins.

He passed for 355 yards and three touchdowns against Folsom last season and has gone for a remarkable 4,519 and 60 this season with just three interceptions while rushing for seven scores. Tompkins passed for 410 yards and five touchdowns in his team’s 58-34 section-title win over Liberty of Bakersfield.

He has scores of Central Section passing records.

Bennett is Folsom’s focal point. He’s headed to Boise State on scholarship. Tompkins is also his team’s X-factor. In the 6-foot mold like Bennett, Tompkins has committed to UC Davis.

Central coach Kyle Briggs has called Tompkins, “Phenomenal. As long as we have him on our sideline, I like our chances.”

The coach added to The Fresno Bee, “We have a huge test on our hands. Folsom is a very talented team both on offense and defense, and on top of that, they are fundamentally sound and well-coached.”

Central repeated as Central Section champion after not winning a title in the 87-year history of the school. Football is a big deal in Fresno with decades of tradition of big games in sparkling venues.

Del Oro (12-1) faces Saint Francis of Mountain View (11-2) of the Central Coast Section on Friday in the Division 2-AA title game in Loomis.

The Golden Eagles are coming off a stirring 20-17 win over Central Catholic to win the section D-II title.

The game turned when Dante Pericin stripped a Raiders ball carrier, and Matt Smart scooped it up and raced 42 yards for the winning score with just under two minutes to play.

Saint Francis, like Del Oro, is battle tested from a rigorous league schedule. If the Sierra Foothill League, of which Del Oro is a member with Folsom, isn’t the best in Northern California, then the West Catholic Athletic League in the Bay Area is.

In 2013, Del Oro beat Central Coast Section power Serra of San Mateo 28-20 in a NorCal title game.

Del Oro stuns Central Catholic in final minutes after Golden Eagles Matthew Smart recovers and returns a Raiders fumble for a touchdown.

In Division 3-A, Capital Christian (13-0) plays at Wilcox (12-1) in Santa Clara on Saturday at 6 p.m.

While playing in a NorCal game might be new stuff for Cougars players, it’s old hat for coach Casey Taylor. He reached four CIF State title games this decade while coaching at Del Oro, winning one and nearly repeating in 2016.

In Division 5-AA, Rio Linda (11-2) will play at Northern Section champion West Valley in Cottonwood on Friday.

Rio Linda has not competed for a state championship in any team sport and just won its first section football championship since 2004. The Knights are led by school rushing-record holder Cameron Skattebo, fresh off a 312-yard effort with seven total touchdowns to beat Casa Roble 63-14.

He has 2,918 yards and 37 rushing touchdowns and is closing in fast on becoming the third area runner to go for 3,000 yards in a season. John Bordenkircher went for a still-standing Sac-Joaquin Section-record 3,458 yards and 40 scores for an 11-1 Dixon team in 1997, and Onterrio Smith went for 3,125 and 53 for a 10-1-1 Grant club in 1998.

East Nicolaus (13-0) plays Hilmar for the Division 6-AA title Friday in Atwater.

East Nicolaus, under coach and one-time Spartans player Travis Barker, won a state title in 2015.

Colfax will spend this weekend breaking down film. The Falcons (13-0) will play in the CIF State Division 5-A title game against San Diego High (11-2) on Dec. 15 in Placer County.

There is no NorCal title game in this division because North Coast Section teams elected to play for section titles this weekend instead of going with a coin flip to see which team would advance to a CIF State game. This happened because smoke from the Camp Fire in Butte County pushed games back two weeks.

The Falcons are coming off a 31-28 double-overtime win over rival Bear River to win the section Division V title.

Follow The Bee’s Joe Davidson:, @SacBee_JoeD,

CIF Northern California Championships
Division 1-AA
Folsom at Central-Fresno, Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Division 1-A
Liberty at Valley Christian, Saturday, 6 p.m.
Division 2-AA
Saint Francis-Mountain View at Del Oro, Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Division 2-A
Memorial-Fresno at Tulare Union, Saturday, 6 p.m.
Division 3-AA
Menlo-Atherton at Eureka, Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Division 3-A
Capital Christian at Wilcox-Santa Clara, Saturday, 6 p.m.
Division 4-A
McClymonds at Aptos, Saturday, 6 p.m.
Division 5-AA
Rio Linda at West Valley, Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Division 6-AA
East Nicolaus vs. Hilmar at Atwater, Friday, 7:30 p.m.
* Colfax will play San Diego High for Division 5-A state title Dec. 15.
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