SBLive California is previewing the Top 50 high school football teams in the state ahead of the 2020-2021 season. Even with the season on hold, we will continue to highlight the best teams, players and coaches in California. Here’s an inside look at the Folsom Bulldogs of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section, the No. 25 team in our countdown.
FOLSOM HEAD COACH
Paul Doherty, second season (10-2)
2019 AT A GLANCE
- Overall record: 10-2
- League play: 6-0, 1st in Sierra Foothill League
- CIFSJS Division I playoffs: defeated Edison (Stockton) 45-42, lost 35-23 against Monterey Trail in semifinals
- Jan. 8 vs. Monterey Trail, 7:30 p.m.
- Jan. 15 vs. Jesuit, 7 p.m.
- Jan. 22 @ Davis, 7 p.m.
- Jan. 29 @ De La Salle, 7:30 p.m.
- Feb. 5 vs. Oak Ridge, 7 p.m.
- Feb. 12 @ Grant Union, 7 p.m.
- Feb. 19 @ Del Oro, 7 p.m.
- Mar. 5 @ Rocklin, 7 p.m.
- Mar. 12 vs. Whitney, 7 p.m.
- Mar. 19 vs. Granite Bay, 7 p.m.
ALL-METRO PLAYERS DEPARTED
(source: Sacramento Bee)
QB Jake Reithmeier – First Team
WR Elijah Badger – First Team
WR CJ Hutton – First Team
RB Daniyel Ngata – First Team
DL DeShawn Lynch – First Team
WR/DB Cameron Broussard – First Team
LB/P Dylan Richard – First Team
LB Davion Blackwell – Second Team
CB Kaleb Higgins – Second Team
PLAYERS TO WATCH
QB Ari Patu – SR.
Last year Patu was Folsom’s QB2, playing behind another D-I quarterback, senior Jacob Reithmeier. He was still able to throw for 853 yards and four touchdowns on just over 100 attempts while running for 166 yards and four more scores. The high 3-star Stanford signee will enter his sole year as a starter as one of the top players in the section.
DL Jake Melander – SR.
A reigning First Team All-Sierra Foothill League selection, Melander finished 2019 with 50 tackles, nine tackles for loss, 14 QB-hurries, and a team-high six sacks.
OL/DL Apollo Jeffs – SR.
A 2-star lineman with an offer from Lewis & Clark, Jeffs’ primary position as a college prospect is DE, but he makes just as big of an impact for Folsom on the offensive line.
S Lonnell Turbin – SR.
Turbin only played in eight games last season but put in strong work, finishing with 39 tackles. He’s nationally-ranked and has received Division I interest.
CB Dorian Blackwell – SR.
Another DB who played well in eight games of action last year, Blackwell too is nationally-ranked with interest from multiple D-I schools. He also has at least three offers from D-II programs.
SS Michael Chavez – SR.
As a junior last season at St. Mary’s (Stockton), Chavez made 61 tackles in nine games, and also had over 150 receiving yards as a rotation receiver. He’s a 2-star prospect, and signed with Morehead State on Early Signing Day.
C Vincent Scalise – SR.
Coach Doherty: “He was a late bloomer … he’s been growing, thriving, and staying focused and working out during the quarantine. He’s gotten bigger, now up to 6-3, 265-275.”
Scalise has four college offers, and recently became nationally ranked by 247Sports.
DL Khalil Habib – SR.
As a junior, Habib registered 29 tackles, six TFLs, 2.5 sacks, and 10 QB-hurries.
RB Mitch Anderson – SR.
As a transfer from Oak Ridge, Anderson got limited action last year but still finished with 160 all-purpose yards. He’s received D-I interest and coach Doherty calls him a college scholarship guy that just needs a senior year to break through. Doherty expects him to be a force at RB when the season comes.
WR/DB Austin McMillan – JR.
As a sophomore, McMillan recorded 59 tackles (3.5 for loss) and two interceptions on defense. He also caught for 100 receiving yards despite playing behind numerous star seniors at WR. Expect another strong year in the secondary plus more production on offense in his junior season.
WR Rico Flores – SO.
Coach Doherty: “He already has Pac-12 offers and hasn’t played a down of (varsity) football. 6-2, 195, huge and strong, incredible coordination, and developed in route running, agility, cone work. He was on JV at Capital Christian last season.”
Flores has offers from UNLV, Colorado, and Arizona State.
TE/DE Walker Lyons – SO.
Coach Doherty: “Walker has offers to Florida State, BYU. He’s really an ATH prospect, he can play tight end but is also a quarterback and defensive end at 6-5, 230.”
OLB/DE Justin Eklund – JR.
Coach Doherty: “He’s a Power-5 OLB, a transfer from Rocklin, 6-3, 225. Can play OLB and DE, he’s versatile in coverage and also strong up front.”
Eklund has offers from Idaho and Arizona State.
WR DJ Brown – SO.
Coach Doherty: “DJ is a crazy athlete. He won a national championship in weight lifting, but he’s a wide receiver and also a sub-11 track kid. He’ll be a starting WR. He was on frosh last year.”
TE Mason Norberg – SO.
Coach Doherty: “He was on frosh last year but will be at tight end for us this year. He’s 6-3, 205, and has the best ball skills in California. I mean he catches everything … has next-level hand/eye coordination and ball skills.”
HOW COVID-19 HAS AFFECTED FOLSOM FOOTBALL
COVID-19 has affected every high school football team differently. Coach Paul Doherty shares how COVID-19 has impacted Folsom football since the shut down in March:
“Our kids our handling it better than I am. I’m impressed,” said coach Doherty. “I was going crazy two days in. We went a whole summer of football without a ball, against … air, with no defense or ball. But we got a lot done, it was incredibly productive. Graduation hit us pretty hard; we had six kids sign NLIs. We’re reloading with a bunch of younger kids and transfers – we needed the extra time to prepare and get kids caught up.
“We have 28 coaches on staff, so we’ve been able to break up into small pods and have enough coaches to be productive. Every kid was coming, lifting, getting position reps everyday, because we had coaches covering everything.
“With 10 sophomores, we’ll probably be the youngest team in the section. Whenever we do get a chance to play, we’ll be ready to roll. Credit to the kids and coaches.”
Because of the pandemic and delayed schedule, Folsom is also losing one of its best players, Kaleb Higgins, to early graduation. The high 3-star recruit is one of the state’s top corners and signed to play for Cal.
As always, Folsom is a premier threat to win the Sac-Joaquin Section. College scholarship-caliber talent is spread across the field, and the Bulldogs don’t have one significant weakness on paper – nothing but strengths. Patu and his laundry list of Power-5 prospects to pass to are a safe bet to form one of NorCal’s top aerial attacks, and nearly the whole defense is comprised of college scholarship guys.
The Sac-Joaquin Section’s Division I is likely to have the same three teams at the top as in 2019 – Folsom, Oak Ridge, and Monterey Trail. While the familiar foes in their way will be formidable as usual, winning both a league and section championship is more than tenable for the Bulldogs. That could very well include a bowl game win at the CIF state Division 1 level, depending on how the altered postseason shakes out.
MOST REALISTIC SCENARIO
Anything less than a semifinals appearance and a top-three finish in the section would be surprising. There’s no doubt that Folsom will be in the running for a title.
The Bulldogs have arguably the toughest non-league schedule in all of NorCal, and it includes Monterey Trail, in addition to De La Salle. Then they open league play against reigning section champ Oak Ridge. Folsom is also a pretty young team — as loaded with returning talent as it is — so it might not hit peak form until a chunk of the season has gone by.
Even if Folsom drops all three marquee games in the first half of its schedule – which isn’t likely, but certainly possible – you can still count on this team to be a championship heavyweight come playoff time. And that’s when potential rematches with Monterey Trail and Oak Ridge would have everything on the line.
“The fact that we can compete for a championship every year … it’s a credit to all the great coaches who have coached here, and the culture they’ve built, and the kids have built.
“We love playing in our league, and a competitive non-league to prepare for that. Our kids have opportunities every week to prove themselves and compete. De La Salle is a non-league game again, Monterey Trail is first up. Our kids are humble for sure, but hungry to win it all.”
— Coach Paul Doherty