Central High made school history by winning the first Central Section title in 87 years of playing football, but Friday night it couldn’t overcome a historic program.
Folsom beat the visiting Grizzlies 54-35 in the Division 1-AA North region final.
Folsom has won six Sac-Joaquin Section championships since 2010 and was making its fifth NorCal title appearance since 2012.
But Central got an early blow against the Bulldogs when Trent Tompkins found Jacob Torrez for a 29-yard touchdown in the first quarter and a 7-0 lead.
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“Kids competed tonight and played their hearts out,” Central coach Kyle Biggs said. “We had opportunities to win but we’ve never been here before and they have. They’ve been here five times. It’s like being to the Super Bowl. When you’ve been there before, you know what to expect. We had opportunities in the first half. We didn’t play well in the second half.
“It doesn’t take anything away from what we did and what these kids accomplished. I’m proud of them and love them. We’re going to be back. We wanted to make this type of game an expectation, the standard we want to play in and where we play at. We’re a Valley championship team and they can’t take that away from us.”
Folsom is 15-0 for the second time since 2014, and that Jake Browning-led juggernaut capped the season with a state championship. This group can duplicate the feat on Dec. 15 at Sacramento State against the Southern California Division 1-AA Regional champion Helix-La Mesa.
Junior quarterback Kaiden Bennett passed for 312 yards and four touchdowns, including strikes of 9, 51 and 7 yards to junior Joe Ngata, a certifiable load at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds with national recruiting interest. Bennett also had a 9-yard scoring toss to Elijhah Badger and had an 11-yard touchdown run.
Bennett has passed for 4,114 yards and 53 touchdowns. He has rushed for 1,113 yards and 14 scores.
Ngata’s younger brother Daniyel, a sophomore, rushed for 126 yards, including TDs of 2 and 50 yards. He also had 137 receiving yards. Joe Ngata finished with 147 receiving yards.
And it took every bit of the three to withstand the charge of the Grizzlies (12-2), who were competitive in losses to two state powerhouses. (The other was 45-30 to De La Salle-Concord in the regular season, and all the Spartans are doing is playing Mater Dei-Santa Ana on Dec. 16 for the state Open championship.)
Central was big, fast and physical, and big on the big play, but ultimately stalled enough by a tenacious if not stretched defense. Folsom had eight sacks, two by Tanner Ward, and the Bulldogs stopped Central three times on fourth down, two of those stops leading to touchdowns.
Folsom didn’t seal it until CJ Hutton scooped up a fumble and raced down the Central sideline 62 yards for a touchdown for the final points with 2:51 left. This came a moment after Bennett hit Joe Ngata for a 7-yard touchdown, the second time of the night Ngata simply outmuscled tight coverage by latching onto the ball.
Dual-threat junior quarterback Tompkins had some great moments for Central. Tompkins hit Torrez for touchdowns of 29, 15 and 72 yards as the Grizzlies flexed their considerable burst.
Central couldn’t get closer than a six-point deficit, trailing 20-14 after Torrez’s 15-yard TD catch in the second quarter. Folsom opened the third quarter with a TD when Bennett connected on a 49-yard touchdown pass to Joe Ngata, and Bennett then added an 11-yard touchdown run with 3 minutes left in the third quarter for a 33-14 lead.
Central was coming off a 29-7 victory over Buchanan for the school’s first section title.
The Sacramento Bee’s Joe Davidson contributed to this report.