Hometown Report

Hometown Report: Why punt when you have a record-breaking quarterback?

The Folsom Bulldogs disdain the very idea of punting.

It goes against their competitive DNA.

The Bee’s top-ranked high school football team views fourth downs as another opportunity to wear down a defense, to batter a unit’s psyche, all with the singular focus of chasing down a championship.

The idea, Bulldogs coaches say, is to set a tone and to maintain it, even when conventional wisdom suggests that on fourth and 8 from your own 25, it’s wise to punt. But Folsom is anything but conventional. The Bulldogs haven’t punted since the 2013 season, when they only punted once.

And it’s hard to argue the results. Folsom went 14-1 last year and is 13-0 entering tonight’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship game against Tracy at Sacramento State. The Bulldogs have been stopped only three times on downs this season, but its defense has not allowed its opponents to score any points on those ensuing drives.

“We love the idea of four-down football,” said Bulldogs co-coach Troy Taylor, whose team does not even practice punts before games. “It started for us in 2010 when we punted four times all season and went on to win the state championship.”

But how and why with this philosophy?

“We put all of our net punt averages together, crunched the numbers and found out that we were not gaining a lot of yards on punts after returns,” Taylor said. “So there’s no rationale for us to punt. We’re great on offense when we pass protect, catch it and go.”

And the Bulldogs define the meaning of “go,” averaging nearly 50 points a game. Washington-bound senior quarterback Jake Browning has torn defenses to bits by passing for a state season-record 76 touchdowns – with just four interceptions – as the repeat California Gatorade State Player of the Year. He’s five touchdown passes shy of tying the national career mark of 219 set in 2011. Oh, and he’s the punter, too, in a pinch, quick to remind with a grin that he has a career 44-yard average for his lone attempt.

“We like going for it,” Browning said.

“You have to have the right mentality for always going for it,” Taylor said. “There’s no arrogance to it. Our whole philosophy is for us to put as much pressure and anxiety on the defense as possible. Make that defense feel uneasy, nervous. You don’t perform as well when you’re anxious. I know people would like to see us punt, but we just don’t.”

Folsom co-coach Kris Richardson hears the moans in the stands when the Bulldogs go for it on fourth down in their own territory.

“People in the stands or bloggers or whoever think they’re Sunday morning quarterbacks, but this isn’t the NFL,” Richardson said. “The high school game is totally different. How much do you really get out of punting at this level? Our studies showed that our punts averaged 17 to 24 yards of net gain, and what good is that? So our mentality is, ‘attack, attack, attack.’ Sure it drives some crazy, but we feel sending our punt team out could be more risky than just going for it. We just know what works for us.”

Love for linemen

The first players Browning credits for his team’s success are his offensive linemen, who make it a point to not allow any defenders to lay a mitt on their star player.

The tackles are senior Cody Creason, who committed to Arizona, and Jonah Williams, a junior. The guards are Will Koch and Jake Coveau. The center is Sam Whitney, also a standout defensive end. Others who have played a role on the offensive line this season include Jared Nooner, Austin Rothrock and Kooper Richardson, whose father coaches the linemen.

Said Creason, “We take it personal when someone hits Jake. Won’t have it.”

Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.