Joe Davidson

Prep Insider: Folsom Bulldogs defy odds, opponents’ best shots to extend two remarkable streaks

Special to The Sacramento Bee

The coaches have come to expect the unexpected, and it’s an indirect compliment to the program’s greatness.

The players eagerly anticipate the next challenge, inspired by an enhanced legacy.

The Folsom Bulldogs charge on unlike any high school football team in regional history. They absorb every opponent’s best shot, adjust and prevail.

Opponents commonly offer a completely different defensive alignment than the one the Bulldogs’ coaches scouted in person or broke down on film. They throw everything but the deep freezer at Folsom because nothing else has worked. It happened again Thursday night against Rocklin in a Sierra Foothill League contest. The Thunder presented a different look, but the result was the same.

Folsom adjusted to Rocklin’s schemes and punctuated the second half with championship-level drives of 99 and 98 yards to win 28-14 behind poised quarterback Jake Jeffrey.

The top-ranked Bulldogs (8-0) have won a state-leading 24 consecutive games and a regional-record 39 successive regular-season contests. This is all the more remarkable considering Folsom graduated all but one starter from last season’s once-in-a-generation 16-0 CIF State championship team. But that one starter is the best player in Northern California: two-way lineman Jonah Williams, a five-star recruit headed to Alabama. The Bulldogs’ other bookend tackle is Kooper Richardson,who like Williams stands 6-foot-5. Richardson is the son of co-coach Kris Richardson, so he has grown up on Folsom football, tradition, accountability and expectations, and he digs in hungrily on all of it.

Folsom is closing in on its fourth consecutive 10-0 regular season, but it won’t be easy. Waiting in El Dorado Hills on Friday to try to take a bite out of the Bulldogs’ staying power is No. 3 Oak Ridge, Folsom’s chief rival. Oak Ridge coaches and players studied the Bulldogs on Thursday, debating concepts, themes and strategy.

Kris Richardson and co-coach Troy Taylor don’t discuss streaks. They discuss today and tomorrow, the next practice, the next game, the next series of downs. Their focus is on the here and now. Their players don’t flinch in the spotlight, either. They embrace it. This isn’t pressure, Jeffrey explained. It’s great fun.

“The success comes through our coaching staff,” the senior said Saturday. “We have two amazing head coaches who 100 percent know how to win and how to get the best out of us.”

Folsom had 16 running-clock blowouts last season, quite likely a state record. This season, the Bulldogs opened with a 27-26 victory over Bay Area power Clayton Valley Charter, then opened SFL action by slugging out a 27-14 victory at Granite Bay. Rocklin battled Folsom to the wire, too.

“It’s never bad to win big, but this season, we’ve had a couple of close games, and those have been really fun,” Jeffrey said. “The tradition and mindset is that every day in the offseason, you have to push yourself harder than any other team in the area because you know they are all going to be coming for you.”

Streak perspective – Cordova owns the region’s longest overall winning streak at 34, from the 1970s, a decade in which the Lancers led the country in victories in going 102-6-1 with coaches Dewey Guerra and Ron Lancaster. A longtime assistant on those teams was Tom Doherty, who coached Folsom to section titles in 1989 and ’90 and has been a mentor of sorts to Richardson and Taylor. He shakes his head in admiration at what the Bulldogs have done lately. Folsom’s résumé since 2010 includes two CIF State titles and four section crowns. Since 2012, the Bulldogs are 52-2, the losses coming to national powerhouse De La Salle in NorCal title games.

The quarterback for the 1975 Cordova team that went 11-0 and finished No. 1 in the country was Scott Jenner, whose son Brad Jenner now is a versatile key player for Folsom.

Mira Loma, a prep pioneer with the wing-T, set a regional record with a 27-game winning streak spanning the late 1960s and early ’70s under coaches Don Brown and Gerry Kundert.

Placer compiled a 27-game winning streak in the 1970s, the shaven-headed Hillmen coached by Bill Miller and Tom Johnson. Cordova had a 26-game winning streak in the mid-1980s under coach Max Miller, and Elk Grove equaled that run in the late 1990s with coaches Dave Hoskins and Ed Lombardi.

Streak standings – Central Catholic holds the section’s record regular-season winning streak of 44, from 2001 to 2005. Folsom’s 39-game regular-season streak is second all time in the section, just ahead of Hilmar’s 38 from 1986 to 1990.

Jerry Van Lengen coached those Hilmar teams and once told me the streak wore on him because “after a while, you coached not to lose, and that’s not fun.”

Folsom, somehow, refuses to let the magnitude of the milestones be a drag.

“Folsom’s streak gains in impressiveness since it’s had few challenges despite moving into the very tough Sierra Foothill League,” said Mark Tennis, the editor of Cal-Hi Sports, which chronicles such records. “(The streak) has also continued this year after graduation of an all-time great senior class.”

Bear River run – In the spirit of sustained success, Bear River’s streak of 29 consecutive non-losing seasons resonates as something special. The Bruins are down to 711 students, the fewest for the Grass Valley campus since 1986, when the school opened. Few programs compete like this one, and it was all on display Friday in a 26-14 loss to Placer in one of the best games we’ve seen in some time.

Bear River’s sturdiness is a credit to the players and especially co-coaches Terry Logue and Scott Savoie. Athletes grow up idolizing those two in youth programs, deeming them too important to disappoint.

“We’re so lucky to have these two great coaches,” Bear River athletic director and longtime basketball coach Duwaine Ganskie said. “People just don’t appreciate the wealth of knowledge these two have, how special they are.”

Grant keeps going – Grant has extended its section record for consecutive playoff appearances to 25, and the Pacers can speak of absorbing everyone’s best shot. On Friday, David Moala blocked a field-goal attempt in the closing seconds to preserve a 21-20 victory over struggling Sheldon. Before the game, the Twin Rivers Unified School District honored longtime coach Mike Alberghini by naming the Grant field after him.

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