Central High rose to the occasion.
And still it wasn’t nearly enough.
The Grizzlies, who were undefeated and had a 16-game home winning streak going into Friday’s Northern California Regional Division 1-AA football championship, scored more points than defending state champ Folsom had allowed in any game all season.
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But Folsom scored touchdowns on all but three of its drives and drubbed Central 84-46 at Deran Koligian Stadium, eliminating the Grizzlies in the regional final for the second straight year.
“I felt like we had to score on every possession, really,” Central senior quarterback Trent Tompkins said. “I knew they had a deadly offense and we just had to score on every possession. But we put up 46 and that’s all right.
“But against Folsom, you have to put up 60 or 70 just to stay in the game. They’re that type of team.”
Folsom kept opponents to single-digit scoring eight times on the season and came in with a points-allowed average under 12.
But Central, which started to show defensive cracks late in the season, could not stop the Bulldogs juggernaut led by Boise State-bound quarterback Kaiden Bennett. Coming in, the Grizzlies had allowed 34 points in back-to-back games and an average of nearly 32 in their last four..
It ended a marvelous three-year career for Tompkins, who’s headed to UC Davis. He helped Central reach three straight Central Section D-I championship games, winning the last two.
“Great three years of my life,” he said. “I’m just excited to be a part of this great team, great school. This school gave me so many opportunities. I’m just so thankful for everything they’ve done for me. We fought our hearts out.”
The three possessions Folsom didn’t score all came in the first quarter when Central forced three turnovers. One, Noah Gonzales’ interception, led to Quali Conley’s 10-yard touchdown reception from Tompkins and a 14-7 Grizzlies lead.
But the Bulldogs took a 35-21 halftime lead.
Central had hope – in each of its postseason games, the Grizzlies had come from behind, including the last two after trailing at halftime.
This time Folsom got a touchdown on the second play of the second half – on defense, Noah Jenkins’ 31-yard interception return. Central stayed close for a few more scores, but Elijah Badger returned a kickoff 70 yards for a score and it was 55-34.
“We needed those plays to go our way and in the second half we couldn’t stop them,” Grizzlies coach Kyle Biggs said. “They’re just a tough team. They are on a whole different level.”
Grizzlies junior wide receiver Jeremiah Hunter said, “They just had studs over there. Their team is really good … we just didn’t stop them enough to get the win. Hats off to them.”
Folsom has won 13 straight since a season-opening loss to De La Salle-Concord. The Bulldogs move on to the state championship at Cerritos College against Cathedral Catholic-San Diego on Dec. 14.
Central finished 13-1 and is 36-5 in the last three seasons.
“That’s something to be extremely proud of,” Biggs said. “They did a great job changing the expectations, perceptions and changing the culture and now it’s on our underclassmen to build off what the seniors did.”
Gonzales, one of 18 seniors, called 2018 “a great season.”
“Everybody wanted to knock us off this year,” he said. “But we were able to win Valley and still able to do a lot of things.”
Folsom 74, Central 46
Folsom (14) - (21) - (28) - (21) -- (84)
Central (14) - (7) - (13) - (12) -- (46)
F: Kaiden Bennett 1 run (Bryce Buck kick)
C: Jeremiah Hunter 11 pass from Trent Tompkins (Juan Cuevas kick)
C: Quali Conley 10 pass from Tompkins (Cuevas kick)
F: Elijhah Badger 5 pass from Bennett (Buck kick)
F: Badger 78 pass from Bennett (Buck kick)
C: Hunter 5 pass from Tompkins (Cuevas kick)
F: Joe Ngata 10 pass from Bennett (Buck kick)
F: Bennett 12 run (Buck kick)
F: Noah Jenkins 31 interception return (Buck kick)
C: Tre Maxwell 19 run (kick failed)
F: Bennett 2 run (Buck kick)
C: Conley 12 pass from Tompkins (Cuevas kick)
F: Badger 70 kickoff return (Buck kick)
F: Bennett 13 run (Buck kick)
C: Conley 4 run (kick failed)
F: Badger 17 pass from Bennett (Buck kick)
C: Hunter 16 pass from Tompkins (kick failed)
F: CJ Hutton 64 run (Buck kick)
F: Joey Washburn 1 run (Buck kick)
RUSHING: Folsom, C.J. Hutton 10-148, Daniyel Ngata 17-138, Kaiden Bennett 10-93, Joey Washburn 2-4. Central, not available.
PASSING: Folsom, Kaiden Bennett 17-24-2-270. Central, Trent Tompkins 25-48-2-411.
RECEIVING: Folsom, Elijhah Badger 5-121, C.J. Hutton 4-52, Parker Clayton 2-50, Joe Ngata 3-37, Daniyel Ngata 1-10. Central, Jeremiah Hunter 10-141, Quali Conley 9-93, David Brown 2-61, Manuel Oliver-Davis 3-57, Milton Clements 2-42, Trent Tompkins 1-17.