DIVISION II: Folsom
13-1 vs. Serra (Gardena)
14-0 at Home Depot Center (Carson), 3:30 p.m. SaturdayFACTS AND STATSRankings —
Folsom: Nationally, No. 34 Freeman and No. 20 Xcellent 25; State, No. 5. Serra: Nationally, No. 38 Freeman and No. 18 Xcellent 25; State, No. 6. Notable Alums —
Serra: Deon Figures (former Pittsburgh Steelers DB), Kris Richard (Seattle Seahawks DB), Rocen Keeton (New York Jets LB), Robert Woods (USC WR).Leading Rushers —
Folsom: Dano Graves
(145-911-20 TDs). Serra: Shaquille Richard
(190-1,713-17), Anterio Bateman
(88-769-5). Leading Passers —
Folsom: Graves (225-333-3,488-5-59). Serra: Conner Preston
(167-251-6-3,508-42). Leading Receivers —
Folsom: Tyler Trosin
(66-1,216-24), Kori Babineaux
(51-882-14), Jordan Richards
(66-1,011-11). Serra: George Farmer
(61-1,401-13), Marquise Lee
(52-1,349-22). Points per game (allowed) —
Folsom 52 (15.6), Serra 41.5 (12.4).
Hold on to your seats, umbrellas and loved ones.
Of all the games played in the state bowl series - 16 thus far - this one figures to blow them all away. As in blow from the wind circulated from all the game's speedy play-makers.
"The word I think of when I watch (Serra) is explosive," Folsom coach Kris Richardson said. "They're very, very athletic and dangerous."
Well, coming from a coach whose team that has scored 728 points this year, that's saying something.
With a wide open, spread, no-huddle attack led by one of the most dynamic players in the country in Graves, Folsom flies into Carson following a remarkable 41-20 win over a Grant-Sacramento team that was built on one of the top defenses in the state.
The Bulldogs were humbled in their season opener by Grant, 49-14, and made an astonishing 56-point swing to claim the Sac-Joaquin Section title and earn the Northern California Division II berth.
Folsom got huge performances from Graves, who accounted for 418 of his team's 504 yards and six touchdowns, and Stanford-bound Richards, with Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh in attendance, had 10 catches for 207 yards and one score and a game-high 11 tackles and an interception on defense.
The game was played in front of 20,200 fans at Sacramento State and good or bad, the Bulldogs have had two weeks to rest for this monumental showdown with the defending Division III Bowl champions.
"I definitely think that works to our advantage," Richardson said. "But they have an advantage playing near home and not worrying about all the headaches of travel. But honestly, we feel ready. It should be quite a show."
Serra always puts on a good show.
They feature a plethora of Division I athletes and an extremely balanced attack, led by USC-bound Farmer (6-2, 210), rated the third best receiving prospect
in the country by MaxPreps/CBS College Sports recruiting expert Tom Lemming.
The Cavaliers finished off a 14-0 season with a 35-10 victory over Arroyo Grande in the Southern Section's Western Division championship last week and have now won 29-0 straight games.
Unlike last year when they came in following an emotionally draining 42-41 overtime win over Oaks Christian, Serra should be rested and in good shape to take on Folsom.
Last year, Serra had to come from behind to defeat Marin Catholic (Kentfield) 24-20 to claim the state bowl title.
"We're ready," Farmer said. "It's a long season and it's been a long ride to get back (to the Home Depot Center). I think we'll play better than last year and we're going to need to play better to win. For a lot of us, it's our last chance putting on a Serra jersey. We want to make the most of it." FOLSOM OFFENSE/SERRA DEFENSE
It does pretty much start and stop with Graves, a 5-foot-9, 185-pound dynamo who can't help but remind you of Doug Flutie.
If Graves isn't putting the ball up out of the shotgun – he's thrown 333 passes – he's running, either by design or from trouble. His 911 rushing yards is almost twice as many as the team's second leading rusher Richards.
"Remarkable football player," Serra coach Scott Altenberg said. "He presents all sorts of challenges but I'm confident in our defense."
Graves has four fantastic receiving threats, in two-way standout Trosin (5-11, 185), Babineaux (6-3, 205), Marcus Hendricks
(6-4, 210) and Richards (5-11, 195). All have been offered college scholarships, Richardson said, and all offer a different type of targets.
"Dano definitely has choices and he usually makes good ones," Richardson said.
Defensively, Serra is not as big as Grant, but equally athletic. "But where Grant attacks, attacks and attacks, (Serra) waits and adjusts," Richardson said. "And they have the speed to adjust and make plays. They make plays."
The best at that is probably Jason Gibson
, a 6-3, 218-pound linebacker who this week committed to Cal. Gibson is second on the team with 83 tackles and 12.5 sacks.
"Stud," Richardson said.
The team leader in both categories is David Maola
, a 6-2, 285-pound lineman who has 85 tackles and 17.5 sacks.
Other players who swarm quickly to the ball are Woodson Greer
(6-2, 220, 65 tackles), Patrick Wooten
(5-10, 190, 72 tackles), Suli Faletuipapai
(6-4, 241, nine sacks) and Raymond Ford
(5-10, 171, four interceptions). SERRA OFFENSE/FOLSOM DEFENSE
Like Folsom, Serra features a wide open passing attack, led by returning starting quarterback Preston, a 6-1, 205-pound senior who has completed 66 percent of his throws for 3,508 yards and 42 touchdowns.
He has arguably the most dangerous wideout duo in the state, and perhaps country, in Farmer (6-2, 210) and Lee (6-1, 185). The duo has combined for 2,750 yards and 35 touchdowns.
Farmer, also a basketball and track star, was described by his track and field coach David Washington as "an incredible piece of machinery."
The duo were held somewhat in check by Arroyo Grande, combining for just five catches. Four, however, went for touchdowns.
"I have the best receivers in the state," Preston said. "You can't stop both of them."
Said Richardson: "If fans want to watch an aerial show, I can't imagine one much better."
The big difference with Serra over Folsom is the Cavaliers have a devoted ground game, led by 5-10, 183-pound senior Richard, who has rushed for 1,713 yards and 17 touchdowns.
He had 25 carries for 162 yards in the win over Arroyo Grande.
"I'm underrated," Richard told Los Angeles Times reporter Ben Bolch. "Everybody says I'm not an every-down back, but I can prove them wrong."
Defensively, Folsom, much like Serra, swarms to the ball and tackles soundly. They aren't terribly big, but have solid play from guys like 5-11, 190-pound linebacker Sam Lueken
(101 tackles) and Troy Watson
, a 5-10, 185-pound senior who has eight sacks and 64 tackles.
Other defensive standouts are Dan Curry
(5-11, 205, 74 tackles), Burton Dekoning
(6-2, 215, seven sacks), Hendricks, Trosin and Richards.
"Our defense will definitely be challenged," Richardson said. "But they like a good challenge." EXTRA POINTS
Serra hopes to continue its remarkably strong run of state-championship play. The Cavaliers backed up their bowl championship with a Division III state basketball title, aided by Lee and Farmer, and finished second to Jesuit-Carmichael, a SJS school, at the state track meet. Jesuit edged Serra 36-34. … Farmer could win state in both the 200 and 400 this season. ... Folsom kicker Dillon Wessing
has been busy this year with 94 extra points. … Legendary SJS coach Max Miller came out of retirement to take over Folsom's defense this season.