These Folsom Bulldogs have long been the big dogs.
All bellowing bark and plenty of bite, they haven’t lost to a Sierra Foothill League opponent in four seasons, have been The Bee’s top-ranked team for much of that streak, won multiple Sac-Joaquin Section titles and, oh yeah, they’ve won a pair of state championships.
The No. 1 Bulldogs made No. 7 Rocklin Thunder look average Friday night at Prairie City Stadium, beating them 46-3 for their 23rd consecutive SFL win. The victory sets up the SFL title tilt next Friday in El Dorado Hills against No. 2 Oak Ridge, who thrashed Nevada Union 48-14.
It’s easy for the Bulldogs (9-0, 5-0) to get caught up in the hype as the players multiple social media accounts and smartphones. Yes, they know they’re ranked 25th in the nation by MaxPreps.
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But Folsom coach Kris Richardson is having none of it. Your head getting a little too big for your helmet? The Bulldogs will take care of that in practice.
“We’ll ramp it up a little bit in practice, and you challenge kids in the right way in practice and preach competition,” Richardson said. “Nobody’s job is safe. You have to compete Monday through Thursday. It’s day-to-day improvement.”
It’s also easy to see how tantalizing it is to get overconfident. Daniyel Ngata, just a sophomore, took the opening kick 96 yards for a score and on the Bulldogs’ first play from scrimmage. He hit the left edge, turned on the jets and was gone for a 51-yard touchdown. He added an 8-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. His older brother Joe, a junior, got behind the Rocklin secondary in the second quarter and connected with quarterback Kaiden Bennett for a 75-yard score. Joe Ngata also had a 4-yard touchdown run.
The Bulldogs defense never gets as much attention as the offense. But they’re every bit as good and had Bee Player of the Week Cade Wyant flushed out and flustered all game long.
“They’re so well coached and have so many good players,” Rocklin defensive coordinator Jason Adams said before the game. “Football is a game of matchups and you look for advantages, but Folsom doesn’t have holes. You literally have to play a perfect game against them.”
Richardson and his staff see it every day, and guard against complacency.
“We haven’t accomplished anything yet,” Richardson said. “Yeah, we’ve won some games, but we haven’t accomplished any of our goals yet. It’s day-to-day work. We put on the board, ‘Yeah we want to be state champions or league and section champions.’ OK. How do you get there?
“We focus on day-to-day improvement. We film every practice and as a coaching staff we watch those tapes so we don’t wait until Friday night to see where we’re at. We film Monday’s practice and we watch it Monday night so we can talk with the kids on Tuesday and know what we need to fix.”
Richardson said he has plenty of players to police the halls and the locker room to prevent overconfidence. He relies on them to be his eyes and ears when the players are away from the practice field.
“We have some great leaders on this team in Kaiden Bennett, Noah Lunday, Justin Viega and Joe Ngata,” Richardson said. “When your best players are your best leaders, and your hardest workers, you usually have a pretty good team.”
Richardson takes that team and its bite up the hill to Oak Ridge. Oak Ridge gave Folsom everything they had last year and only a failed two-point conversion kept Oak Ridge from springing the upset and grabbing the SFL title. The Trojans are bigger, faster and meaner this season, and will be waiting.
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“Every week in the SFL is a slugfest and we talk about that every week,” Richardson said. “You lose one game and you’re probably not going to be the league champs. It was like that in the Delta River League, too, where every week seemed like it was for the league championship.”
Mark Billingsley is a Carmichael-based freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @editorwriter001.