Joe Davidson

Is state champion Folsom this region’s greatest football team?

Folsom quarterback Jake Browning and co-coach Kris Richardson enjoyed a dominating 16-0 season that saw every game conclude with a running clock.
Folsom quarterback Jake Browning and co-coach Kris Richardson enjoyed a dominating 16-0 season that saw every game conclude with a running clock. Special to The Bee

Scott Jenner is torn between two loves – one past, one current.

As a quarterback for Cordova in 1975, Jenner helped lead the Lancers to an 11-0 season and No. 1 national ranking. That team was part of the greatest football dynasty in Sac-Joaquin Section history.

Jenner is president and CEO of a financial services company. The former Lancer has strong ties to the Folsom football program, and said he couldn’t watch the Bulldogs without his mouth agape and both hands on his head to prevent it “from spinning.” Jenner’s son Brad, a sophomore, was called up from the junior varsity for Folsom’s impressive playoff run, capped by a 68-7 drubbing of unbeaten and state-ranked No. 5 Oceanside in the CIF Division I state championship Friday in Carson.

Folsom, 16-0, won all of its games with a running clock, implemented when a team has a lead of 35 or more points after the third quarter. The Bulldogs set national scoring records behind quarterback Jake Browning, pounded teams with defensive pursuit and pressure, and will finish as high as third in the country in national rankings.

The 1975 Cordova team, which competed before the section playoff format, is the last Northern California team other than De La Salle to finish No. 1 in the country.

So, which team was better? And which football team was this region’s best of all time?

Mr. Jenner, you’re on the hot seat.

“The best high school team I’ve ever seen play,” Jenner said, “is this Folsom team. I haven’t seen anyone as amazing, as dominant as Folsom.”

Jenner paused to reflect, or possibly to check when the next Cordova class reunion is to brace for backlash from former teammates.

“Our Cordova team was great,” Jenner said. “We had speed, we had strength, we had depth, we had stars, we had the great coaches, and it all draws a lot of parallels to Folsom now. A Cordova vs. Folsom game would be so fun, a heck of a game, a classic. We were a five-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust and speed team. Folsom does it all. We had 20 plays that we would run phenomenally well. Folsom has 100 plays that it runs phenomenally well. Without the evolution of the game for Cordova, the new science of the game, the year-round part of the game, and with all Folsom can do, I don’t know how we’d beat Folsom.

“I know my brethren, my brothers at Cordova, are rolling over hearing this, thinking, ‘How can you say this?’ but I believe it: Folsom is the best team ever around here.”

I’ve watched a lot of great teams since I started covering high school football in this region in 1984, and I agree with Jenner.

Some of the other great teams include Elk Grove in 1998, which was 14-0 and trailed for only six seconds all season, and Cordova in 1985, also 14-0 and quarterbacked by Bee Player of the Year Troy Taylor.

Now Folsom’s co-coach, Taylor’s eyes widen when asked which team is the area’s greatest. Folsom this year, he said.

It can be argued Folsom doesn’t have a dynamite back like Max Venable or Reggie Young, who helped the 1975 Lancers average an area record 42 points a game, a remarkable feat considering most games were low-scoring affairs. And Folsom doesn’t have a player such as Lance Briggs, the 1998 Thundering Herd’s top player.

But those teams didn’t have a quarterback like Browning, the most prolific high school player in national history. And Folsom is the highest scoring team in state history with 915 points, second most in national history.

The argument for Folsom is bolstered by its line play and defense. MaxPreps national columnist Mitch Stephens watched three of the country’s top teams – Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas, Concord’s De La Salle and Folsom – down the stretch of the season and came to an interesting conclusion.

“I’m not so sure that Folsom doesn’t have the best defense in the country this year,” Stephens said. “That’s how great that team is.”

In 1995, Mark Tennis, editor of Cal-Hi Sports, which has ranked teams for decades, called Cordova of 1975 “the best, the most talented, most physical, most dominant team in the long Cordova dynasty, which is the best dynasty Sacramento has ever seen.”

Tennis still leans toward Cordova of 1975.

“I stand by that comment from 1995,” Tennis said . “I’d still give the edge to Cordova. That team represents the greatest dynasty in NorCal history prior to De La Salle, and it was No. 1 in the state.”

De La Salle finished No. 1 in the state this season for the 17th time. Folsom is No. 2.

John Volek, the former Sacramento State coach, said Folsom’s preparation and line play is what stood out to him. Folsom seemed to be a step ahead of every team, including Grant, which was 14-0 entering the Northern California Regional Division I championship. Folsom blitzed the Pacers, taking a 46-0 lead after three quarters en route to a 52-21 victory. Then the Bulldogs scored 10 consecutive touchdowns to blast Oceanside 68-7 in the state title game, after trailing 7-0 for the first time this season.

“What those coaches, Troy Taylor and Kris Richardson, have done is off-the-charts amazing,” Volek said. “We’ve never seen an offense like this or a team like this.”

Volek recalled a frantic call from Max Miller, who won 258 games as a high school coach, including two stints at Cordova.

“He said, ‘You’ve got to see this offensive line of Folsom, it’s the best this section’s ever had,’” Volek said. “Oh my goodness, he’s totally right. It’s the best in the valley, ever. And the defense, and the defensive line. What a team. The technique, the skill, so prepared, the tempo. The beauty of this Folsom team is that an old coach like me can say, ‘Wow. That’s the best ever.’”

Ben Bodding, who covered high school sports for The Bee in the 1970s, including that 1975 Cordova team, recently said “Cordova is the all-time best, but just barely (over Folsom). Cordova ran the wishbone with ease, like seasoned veterans, not like a bunch of high schoolers. The execution was very similar to how De La Salle runs its offense today. Cordova was so confident, too. They knew they would win, and when they ran on the field the confidence just oozed out.”

After watching Folsom crush Grant and Oceanside, Bodding, now working for Farmers Insurance in Roseville, changed his mind.

“After what Folsom did, there is no doubt in my mind this is the best team ever from the Sacramento area,” he said. “The game looked like it has all year – men vs. boys. Cordova was great, but times have changed, and it’s time for a new king.”

Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.

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