Kaiden Bennett led his Folsom High School offense with drop-back passing, accuracy and big-game flair, and the season ended with a repeat title. Cameron Skattebo led his Rio Linda charges with relentless running, hammering away with power and speed, and his season ended on a historically high note. Tyler Hardeman was a pillar on defense for a Folsom team known for its offense, and his unit stood tall to cap a season to remember.
These are The Sacramento Bee Players of the Year for 2018 - playmakers, leaders and champions. Bennett is the Player of the Year, Skattebo the Offensive Player of the Year and Hardeman the Defensive Player of the Year.
Kris Richardson of Folsom is The Bee’s Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to the only CIF State championship repeat in regional history, the Bulldogs taking Division 1-AA honors in 2017 and 2018.
Bennett proved he was not a running quarterback but, rather, a quarterback who could drop back in the pocket, survey the field, slice up defenses and deliver throws short, medium and long. The 6-foot, 180-pound Boise State-bound senior could also run, as evidenced by his 13 rushing scores. Bennett completed 75 percent of his passes for 4,254 yards and 62 touchdowns with just five interceptions in 301 attempts for a 14-1 team that rolled to Sierra Foothill League, Sac-Joaquin Section and Northern California championships. He‘s the only player in CIF State history to win back-to-back state title-game MVP honors. The toughest game down the stretch was the biggest game, and Bennett played big, tossing the winning touchdown to CJ Hutton in a 21-14 overtime thriller over Cathedral Catholic of San Diego in Norwalk.
In that game, it was Hardeman and his defense that made myriad stops in an era of wide-open football. Folsom was coming off a wild 84-44 NorCal win over 13-0 Central of Fresno when the Bulldogs suddenly got defensive in an effort to win on a high note. A 6-foot-2, 275-pound senior lineman, Hardeman warded off constant double teams during the season to record 73 tackles and 8.5 sacks in earning the Defensive Player of the Year honor in the SFL, the top league in Northern California.
Skattebo produced a running back season for the ages. The 5-10, 185-pound junior rumbled, spun and sprinted for a Northern California-record 3,550 yards on 305 carries for a gaudy 11.6 yards-per-carry average. He scored 42 times for a 13-2 team that capped the campaign with a CIF State Division 5-AA championship. Skattebo rushed for a regional NorCal playoff-record 393 yards and three scores in a 38-35 state win over San Gorgonio of San Bernardino in front of an overflow gathering at Rio Linda in finishing 13-2.
Skattebo was at his best in the playoffs. He ran for 312 yards and five scores in a 63-14 section championship win over Casa Roble, then went for 239 and two scores in a 21-13 win over West Valley of Cottonwood in a NorCal final before mustering up the energy to polish off the season.
“Cameron gave us everything he had, and he had a great year,” Rio Linda coach Jack Garceu said.
Coach of the Year
Kris Richardson, Folsom In bearing all manner of great expectations, Richardson kept the Bulldogs on task, in focus and on the fast track in capping his Folsom coaching career in style. Folsom repeated as CIF State Division 1-AA champion, which is what every player and coach within the program expected since the Bulldogs returned 16 starters from a 16-0 team.
Folsom went 14-1 in 2018 in winning the best league in Northern California - the Sierra Foothill League - and taking out powerhouse programs in a postseason romp.
The Bulldogs outscored 12-0 Monterey Trail 42-0 in the third quarter to win the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship 63-25, then set a CIF Regional scoring record in beating 13-0 Central of Fresno 84-44 in the NorCal finals. In the CIF State Division 1-AA championship, Richardson’s team proved it could rely on defense, too, registering a 21-14 overtime win over Cathedral Catholic of San Diego behind defensive coordinator Sam Cole. Richardson is now the assistant head coach at Sacramento State, rejoining one-time Folsom co-coach Troy Taylor.
Under Richardson this decade, Folsom went 127-10 with nine league championships, seven section and four CIF State titles. He also had two 14-1 teams that lost to national power De La Salle in the NorCal Open Division finals, a game since dropped. It’s the best decade of coaching in regional history.
THE BEE’S TOP 20
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