Central High football players say they learned plenty of lessons facing Folsom last season in the Northern California Division 1-AA championship.
The Bulldogs rolled to a 54-35 victory over the visiting Grizzlies behind quarterback Kaiden Bennett who will play at Boise State next season.. He tossed four touchdowns and ran for a score.
A year later, the teams meet again in the NorCal final, but this time it’s at Deran Koligian Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday. The winner moves on to the state championship at Cerritos College against Cathedral Catholic-San Diego on Dec. 14.
Three other Central Section schools are in action Saturday, including a clash of unbeaten teams when San Joaquin Memorial visits Tulare Union in the NorCal Divsiion 2-A final. Also, Central Valley Christian plays at Pleasant Valley-Chico for the state 4-AA championship. Strathmore has a bye before playing Dec. 15 in the state 6-AA final.
‘Play both halves’
Central has been known to be a second-half team, including late rallies against Bakersfield (semifinals) and Liberty-Bakersfield (final) in the section playoffs, but the Grizzlies say they can’t afford to be in an early hole Friday.
“We knew we were going to play Folsom one way or another,” Central senior wide receiver/defensive back Tyrell Grayson said. “We can’t win it with one half. We have to play both halves.”
Grizzlies senior defensive back Noah Gonzales added, “We all know that this is a very fast and explosive team. Our goal is to start out fired-up, ready to play and make sure we are communicating every play so we can limit the mistakes and also stay positive if we do make a mistake.”
Central hasn’t lost a home game since the 2016 Central Section championship against Bakersfield, a 16-game home winning streak that includes two section titles.
This season, Central added two NorCal opponents to its nonleague schedule, giving the Grizzlies and Folsom common opponents in Grant-Sacramento and Whitney-Rocklin.
▪ The Grizzlies defeated Grant 54-12 and Whitney 49-10.
▪ The Bulldogs beat Whitney 63-7 and Grant 53-7.
Central comes in 13-0; Folsom is 12-1 with its only loss 14-0 to De La Salle-Concord, which plays Saturday night in the state Open Division final.
“They’re a great team,” Central senior quarterback Trent Tompkins said. “Very talented. We have to play a perfect game and play Grizzlies football. They have freak athletes.”
Tompkins said the fact that it’s the senior class’ last home game “hasn’t really hit me yet. This is a big game, especially for the seniors. Everything is on the line and we’re going to give it our all and put it out for our community.”
Prep playoffs in the Valley
Tickets: $12, $8 for children, students with ASB cards and seniors
Friday: Folsom (12-1) at Central (13-0), 7:30 p.m. at Deran Koligian Stadium, northeast corner of Grantland and Ashlan avenues west of Highway 99
Saturday: San Joaquin Memorial (13-0) at Tulare Union (13-0), 6 p.m. at Bob Mathias Stadium, Tulare Avenue just west of Highway 99