John Carroll has watched his share of good-to-great football over the decades, and when the Oceanside High School coach sizes up the Folsom Bulldogs, he flinches.
Oceanside (14-0) plays Folsom (15-0) in the CIF Division I State Championship Bowl on Friday at StubHub Center in Carson, and Carroll hopes his team can match wits and touchdowns.
“Folsom is absolutely impressive in every phase of the game,” Carroll said Monday afternoon between classes, the San Diego Section campus buzzing about a third CIF Bowl appearance since 2007. “That school is one of the best, if not the very best, I’ve ever seen on film. Wow. I’ve talked to coaches who have played Folsom live, and they said the same thing.”
Though coaches tend to heap praise on opponents, Folsom is dominant, ranked third in the state by Cal-Hi Sports and in the top five nationally at a number of Internet sites. Led by record-setting senior quarterback Jake Browning, the Bulldogs average 56 points and set a Northern California record with 847 points this season, the second most in state history.
If Folsom reaches its average, it will tie the 2011 Albermarle (N.C.) Bulldogs for the most points in a season in national prep history.
Folsom’s defense is just as grand, Carroll said, with the starting unit – led by Sam Whitney, Sam Whittingham, Tyler Crandall, Bailey Laolagi and Jonah Williams – allowing just over seven points a game.
Oceanside, ranked fifth in the state, is no slouch, either. The Pirates won their 13th San Diego Section title and third Southern California Division I Regional championship under Carroll, who is so beloved by the community that the school named the football field after him earlier this month.
Carroll, in his 26th season at age 58, has won 249 games, including state bowls in 2007 and 2009.
“This has been a great group,” Carroll said. “It’s been an unexpected surprise. The success this season is a credit to the work ethic and character of the team. We’ve got some very good players, and the kids refuse to lose. I’ve been very, very blessed coaching here.”
Oceanside runs a hurry-up offense, with Carroll coaching from the press box and sending plays to the sideline for quarterback Matt Romero, who has passed for 3,008 yards and 27 touchdowns. Running back Josh Bernard has rushed for 1,508 yards and 26 touchdowns. Defensive back Jordan Miller is headed to Washington, where he will join Browning, on scholarship, and linemen Tommy Woo, Christian Cronk and Cedric Bigge-Duren are Division I recruits.
Et cetera – De La Salle, which will play in its ninth CIF State Bowl, is the only team to go to one every season since the bowl format inception. The Spartans – ranked first by Cal-Hi Sports, third nationally by MaxPreps and playing in the Open Division game for the sixth consecutive season – seek their fifth Open title. De La Salle (13-0) plays Centennial of Corona (12-2), which is in a Bowl for the fifth time, Saturday night.
▪ De La Salle isn’t the only powerhouse in the East Bay. Clayton Valley Charter of Concord (15-0) is in its first State Bowl, the Division II game against Redlands East Valley, after beating Oakdale 28-7 in the Northern California Division II final. Clayton Valley Charter coach Tim Murphy and Folsom co-coach Kris Richardson are close friends and Bay Area natives.
▪ Central Catholic of Modesto (11-3) seeks a Division IV three-peat after beating Capital Christian 35-14 in the NorCal D-IV final. Said Central Catholic coach Roger Canepa: “People have no idea how hard it is to do this.”
▪ Gary McKnight became the first basketball coach in California to win 1,000 games when Mater Dei of Santa Ana beat Corona del Mar 67-44 on Thursday. After a 73-44 victory over Tustin on Friday, McKnight, in his 33rd season, is 1,001-85 with a record 11 state championships, including nine at Sleep Train Arena.
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.
CIF STATE BOWL GAMES
All games at StubHub Center, Carson
Division IV: Central Catholic (Modesto) vs. St. Margaret’s (San Juan Capistrano), 4 p.m., CSNCA
Division I: Folsom vs. Oceanside, 8 p.m., CSNCA
Division III: Campolindo (Moraga) vs. El Capitan (Lakeside), noon, CSNCA
Division II: Clayton Valley Charter (Concord) vs. Redlands East Valley, 4 p.m., CSNCA
Open Division: De La Salle (Concord) vs. Centennial (Corona), 8 p.m., CSN+