Joe Davidson

Prep football notes: It’ll be Folsom’s offense vs. Rocklin’s defense for SFL lead

Folsom quarterback Jake Browning, shown against Pleasant Grove earlier this season, will lead the Bulldogs against Rocklin in a battle for first place in the Sierra Foothill League on Friday.
Folsom quarterback Jake Browning, shown against Pleasant Grove earlier this season, will lead the Bulldogs against Rocklin in a battle for first place in the Sierra Foothill League on Friday.

Troy Taylor and Kris Richardson left Placer County last week impressed.

The Folsom High School co-coaches caught a glimpse of No. 3 Rocklin, led by an attacking defense that has been a staple in its 7-0 start, the program’s best since a 14-1 CIF State Bowl showing in 2009.

Top-ranked Folsom (7-0) plays at Rocklin on Friday night for first place in the Sierra Foothill League, testing its prolific offense against the defensive muscle of the Thunder.

“It should be a great game,” Taylor said. “Rocklin is fast on defense, quick, guys flying to the ball. I don’t know if we’ve seen a group play harder. They’re everywhere, relentless, the best defense we’ve faced this season.”

And most assuredly, Folsom will be the most dynamic offense Rocklin will encounter, headed by record-setting quarterback Jake Browning, who has passed for 2,624 yards and 43 touchdowns this season, and a running game that averages 6.8 yards a rush. Folsom’s defense also might be the best Rocklin will see, particularly the Bulldogs’ dominating defensive line anchored by ends Sam Whitney and Lukas Hendricks.

Linebacker Dusty Howenstine turned in a big play early for Rocklin last week against Woodcreek, returning an interception 55 yards in a 35-7 victory. Rocklin linebacker Dylan Smethurst, defensive linemen Chase Hatada, Max Baker and Kyle Bowlin, and defensive backs Gage Sorenson and Garrett Kauppila have had standout seasons, defensive coordinator Jason Adams said.

“Dusty is our vocal leader on defense, and he plays sideline-to-sideline,” Adams said. “Dylan is a unique talent with a great ability to morph into whatever is needed. He has lined up at safety, linebacker, as a rush end.”

Rocklin coach Greg Benzel added: “Our defense is as good as ever.”

And the Rocklin coaches said Folsom may be better than ever, with Adams emphasizing, “They have it all!”

Florin forfeit – With a roster diminished by injuries and poor grades, Florin athletic director George Smith decided to forfeit Friday night’s Metropolitan Conference game against No. 19 Burbank.

Smith said low numbers on the junior varsity earlier this season led the school to elevate those players to the varsity, but the combined roster still wasn’t enough to field a competitive team on Friday night against an already superior opponent.

“Our numbers have been diminishing,” Smith said. “We had about 15 on varsity and 14 on JV, and then we ran into grade problems and injuries. It’s unfortunate, but we have to look at the overall safety of our kids. It’s a tough decision, and I feel for Burbank and coach John Heffernan, who’s a class act. We’d feel doubly bad if this was a Burbank home game and it lost the gate receipts, so we’ll take the brunt of it and go from here.”

Smith expects to field a varsity team for Florin’s final two regular-season games against Kennedy and Valley. The Panthers (1-6) opened with a 30-7 victory over Mira Loma and had competitive losses to McClatchy (40-27) and Johnson (30-27).

Encina woes – Low roster numbers prompted Encina to disband its varsity for the rest of the season. Encina ek is 1-6, including two forfeits (one win and one loss). The Bulldogs’ remaining games were against Vacaville Christian on Friday night and Golden Sierra on Nov. 8. Encina has had four coaches in as many seasons.

Coaching tribute – Del Oro coach Casey Taylor didn’t mind showing emotion in front of his team and the Oak Ridge squad before last Friday’s SFL game. Both teams were brought into the Del Oro wrestling room hours before kickoff so coaches could reflect on mentors, those living and those in memory. They included the late Jack Harnden, the first varsity football coach at Oak Ridge, and Mark Watson, who coached the Trojans to championships in the 1990s and 2000s and is still on staff as a quarterback coach. Taylor said Watson was a father figure and mentor for him as he got his coaching start at Oak Ridge in the 1990s.

“He’s a great example of a teacher, a coach, a friend, and he gave me the tools to get into coaching,” Taylor said.

Oakmont homecoming – Oakmont’s homecoming game on Friday night against Ponderosa will include Dr. Ken Sahl, the school’s first principal. He will be joined by other staff members from Oakmont’s first 25 years. The school opened in 1966. For more information, call athletic director Dean Perkins at (916) 782-1092 or email

Game changes – Two football games scheduled for Halloween have been moved up a day because of venue conflicts or security concerns.

No. 19 Burbank will host No. 10 Sacramento on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. for the Metropolitan Conference championship. Also on Thursday, Natomas will host Lindhurst in a Golden Empire League game at 7:30 p.m.

Folsom wide receiver Cole Thompson said he will attend Harvard next season and play football for the Crimson.

Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee