The undersized lineman is so passionate he’s been known to pace by himself before kickoff to ease his anxiety.
He’s Will Koch, the 5-foot-7, 235-pound starting guard for Folsom High School, who sports a rat tail snaking out of the back of his helmet.
The tackle who looks like a big-time recruit has to be reminded to tone it down in practice because of his penchant for launching bodies into the air.
He’s Jonah Williams, the Bulldogs’ 6-5, 280-pound prospect with the Bunyan-esque beard.
Then there’s the lineman who teammates joke rolls out of bed in a three-point stance, hungry to hit someone.
He’s Cody Creason, another unyielding, big-bodied sort at 6-3 and 285 pounds.
Koch, Williams and Creason help the Bulldogs (15-0, ranked third in the state by Cal-Hi Sports) shed any lingering thoughts that they are a finesse football team.
The Bulldogs, who play Oceanside (14-0) in Friday’s CIF State Division I Championship at the StubHub Center in Carson, have crushed opponents by averaging 56 points behind record-setting quarterback Jake Browning, but it’s grit and muscle that has set this group apart.
Folsom opened the season with a 55-10 rout of San Diego power Cathedral Catholic, dominating the line of crimmage, throwing over the top and seemingly throwing bodies around at will. The Bulldogs will cap the season against Oceanside, which is 2-0 in CIF State Bowl games since 2007 and where NFL linebacker great Junior Seau played.
“Folsom is the best team I’ve ever played against, seen or coached against,” said Cathedral Catholic coach Sean Doyle, in his 20th season, after his team finished 10-2. “The quarterback is unbelievable. The receivers are big and tall. They’re strong. I’d put them right up there with the great Southern Section teams we’ve had. They’re not arrogant or cocky, but they do believe in what they do.”
Losses to nationally renowned De La Salle of Concord in the 2012 and 2013 CIF Open Division Northern California championships sent the Bulldogs back into the weight room. Players worked tirelessly to get stronger, to get better. Second stringers a year ago became key starters this fall, including Jerod Nooner on the defensive line.
Linebackers Bailey Laolagi and Sam Whittingham and defensive end Sam Whitney came back from knee injures to became team leaders after all three missed the 2013 loss to De La Salle.
“We have a lot of weight-room guys, strong and also explosive, and it shows,” Folsom co-coach Kris Richardson said. “We’re not a finesse team that out-schemes you. We’ve gotten more and more physical, and we’re tough and we’re fast.”
Grant coach Mike Alberghini is impressed. He said the Bulldogs outplayed his then-14-0 Pacers in all facets to race to a 46-0 lead after three quarters in the Northern California Division I title game last Friday en route to a 52-21 victory. Now he’s pulling for Folsom to join Grant (2008), Folsom (2010) and Granite Bay (2012) as state champs from this region.
“Absolutely rooting for them,” Alberghini said. “They have a lot of kids, seniors, who went through those heartbreaking losses to De La Salle, and I root for them to finish their careers on top. They’ve been outstanding. I just know they came out absolutely 100 percent ready to play us, and you admire that and appreciate that.”
This has been a light practice week for Folsom, which meant Williams, the two-way lineman, didn’t punish any of his teammates.
“He’s so strong and plays so angry that we have to remind him, ‘Hey, remember, these guys are on your side,’ ” Richardson said.
Explained Williams, sheepishly, “I never have any intention of hurting any of our own guys. I’m just into this game. I do a lot of overtime work in the gym, try to get bigger, stronger, like all of my teammates do. Sometimes I have to remind myself to hold it back a little until the games.”
Whitney said he is inspired by his mother, Jennifer, who died of ovarian cancer in 2011. He carried a framed photo of her on Senior Night for Folsom’s last regular-season home game.
“It’s always there, and it’s something I live with, and it’s hard,” Whitney said. “She battled cancer for nine years. Relapsed seven times. I get my drive from her.”
Whittingham agonized watching Folsom compete without him last season, his right knee in a brace as he slowly worked back into shape. He appreciates every down, every tackle, every victory more than ever.
“It was horrible having to watch,” Whittingham said. “I worked so hard to get back because I needed to get back. To have all of these experiences, with my best friends, I’ll always remember it. Now we just need to finish.”
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.