Joe Davidson

Folsom Bulldogs start new football season where they finished last year: No. 1

Folsom’s Jonah Williams gets his gear on in the locker room before the Bulldogs play Grant in the CIF Northern California Regional Division I championship game at Sacramento State on Dec. 12, 2014.
Folsom’s Jonah Williams gets his gear on in the locker room before the Bulldogs play Grant in the CIF Northern California Regional Division I championship game at Sacramento State on Dec. 12, 2014. Sacramento Bee file

There is still plenty of snarl and bite left in Folsom High School’s football team.

With 21 of 22 starters from last season’s championship team graduated – most competing in college camps of all levels this week – it might seem logical to believe the Sac-Joaquin Section’s preeminent powerhouse might stall a bit.

Don’t count on it.

Coming off a record-shattering 16-0 season that culminated in a 68-7 rout of Oceanside in the CIF State Division I championship game, Folsom starts this season where it left off: as The Bee’s top-ranked team. Area schools started practice on Monday, with full-contact scrimmages Aug. 21-22. Regular-season openers begin Aug. 28-29.

Folsom bid farewell to national record-holder for touchdown passes Jake Browning, now vying for the starting quarterback job at Washington. The Bulldogs now turn the offense over to a new Jake – senior Jake Jeffrey. He contributed to the team’s success last fall as a junior, catching 14 touchdown passes as a receiver.

The lone returning starter is a large one: Jonah Williams, a 6-foot-5, 295-pound tackle, verbally committed to Alabama. He is the section’s most heralded recruit this season. During many blowout wins last season, Folsom’s sophomore and junior reserves gained varsity experience playing in the second half of games as they maintained the offensive tempo and defensive fortitude. Now they are starters.

“Depth has absolutely been a huge part of our success,” Folsom co-coach Kris Richardson said. “We played everybody last year, and they learned and we were able to evaluate. We’re really excited about what we can do this year. We’re not slowing down. We think we can be pretty good again.”

Folsom compiled a three-year, 44-2 record from 2012-14 with three section championships by battering teams with a sophisticated spread-passing attack. Browning finished his three-year varsity career with 229 touchdown passes and 16,775 passing yards, both national records.

Unbeaten in section play since 2011, the Bulldogs now expect a dominant run game, while maintaining the ability to pass. The 6-foot, 180-pound Jeffrey is cut in the quick, elusive runner mold of former Bulldog quarterback Dano Graves, The Bee’s 2010 Player of the Year from Folsom now at Cal Poly. Returning Folsom running backs Tre Green and Roger Neal run with speed and power, and they are good receivers out of the backfield. One of Folsom’s new starting linemen is Kooper Richardson, a 6-5, 275-pound senior and son of the coach.

Second-ranked Grant also will rely on the run game as the Pacers’ 2014 leading rushers Deshawn Collins (2,321 yards, 27 touchdowns in 2014) and Mike Green (1,280, 17) return. Also back for the Pacers, seeking an ongoing section record 25th consecutive playoff berth, are college prospect linemen Orlando Umana (6-4, 315) and Soape Tupou (6-5, 330). The Pacers went 14-1 last fall, losing to Folsom in the CIF NorCal D-I title game at Sacramento State, home of the next three CIF State bowl weekends.

Folsom’s competition in the Sierra Foothill League includes No. 3 Del Oro, No. 5 Rocklin, No. 7 Oak Ridge and No. 12 Granite Bay. Del Oro returns nine offensive starters and seven on defense from a 6-6 team. The Golden Eagles seek their third CIF Bowl bid since 2011 behind three-year starting receiver Tre Udoffia, who committed to Colorado, and defensive back Justin Burrage.

Fourth-ranked Elk Grove will challenge Grant in the Delta League that also features No. 6 Jesuit and No. 8 Franklin. Elk Grove returns four offensive linemen, quarterback Tyler Vander Waal and receiver/defensive back Ryan Robards.

Rocklin’s best player is defensive tackle Chase Hatada, who is being heavily recruited. Jesuit is powered by running back Beau Bisharat, who has verbally committed to Stanford, while Oak Ridge is led by Notre Dame-commit quarterback Ian Book. Franklin is paced by college prospect running back/defensive back Lamar Jackson and No. 9 Inderkum by college prospect tight end/linebacker Josh Falo. No. 10 Burbank is the favorite again to win the Metropolitan Conference behind its speedy triple-option offense.

Bear River, ranked No. 15, and No. 20 Capital Christian are smaller-school section defending champions. Granite Bay (Jeff Evans) and No. 14 Sacramento (Justin Reber) are led by new coaches.

Joe Davidson: 916-321-1280, @SacBee_JoeD

The Bee’s football rankings

With last year’s record:

  • 1. Folsom 16-0
  • 2. Grant 14-1
  • 3. Del Oro 6-6
  • 4. Elk Grove 10-3
  • 5. Rocklin 9-3
  • 6. Jesuit 9-3
  • 7. Oak Ridge 5-5
  • 8. Franklin 7-5
  • 9. Inderkum 12-2
  • 10. Burbank 7-4
  • 11. Antelope 7-4
  • 12. Granite Bay 9-4
  • 13. Placer 8-3
  • 14. Sacramento 10-3
  • 15. Bear River 11-2
  • 16. Cosumnes Oaks 8-3
  • 17. Vista del Lago 8-4
  • 18. Christian Brothers 8-3
  • 19. Del Campo 7-4
  • 20. Capital Christian 13-1
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