Most prep football fans thought Elk Grove would be good this year, but not 13-0 good.
Same thing goes for the defending Division I state champion Folsom Bulldogs. They had no starters returning this year, yet no one has beat them. They are now on something like a 38-game winning streak.
Only St. Mary's came close to ending that in last weekend's Sac-Joaquin Section semi-final contest. Folsom once again was lighting up the scoreboards around the Sierra Foothill League with its quick-snap, score-fast offense this fall.
Elk Grove had a few more returning starters in 2015, but no one dreamt Ryan Robards would be a 2,700-plus yardage man who would be at or near the top of the scoring charts in all of California. But, it is evident that success has come as a result of a big, strong, efficient offensive line. Offensive line coach Moe Loller has now a conveyer belt of big guys annually coming to play for him.
This may be his best overall group of "Hammerheads," the nickname given to the offensive linemen at EGHS, warrant how many times Robards and Fullah and the rest of the Herd backfield get to the "second level" virtually unnoticed.
The addition of Jeff Carlson as the defensive coordinator a year or so ago has really beefed up the Herd on that side of the ball. He had terrific defenses the years he and Dave Hoskins were co-head coaches.
Looking to Saturday's game, which will kick off at 6 p.m. at Hornet Stadium, Carlson may have the defensive scheme that could stop Folsom (or at least slow them down) and give Elk Grove its first Section football championship since 2001.
Folsom, on the other hand, is looking for its fourth straight Section championship. The last two were in Division I and the 2012 title came in Division II.
So what will be the difference in what is easily the most highly anticipated game of the year? What is likely to hand the blue championship banner to one school over the other?
I'm afraid it may be the referees.
Yes, I really believe the winner will be determined with how tight the officials will call this game. If they allow Elk Grove defenders to touch the Folsom receivers then I think the Herd has a chance to win it.
What shot down a very good Grant squad in the title game last year with Folsom were a few questionable defensive pass interference calls that came in the second quarter. Then the defenders were forced to back off and the flood gates opened for an easy Folsom win.
These kind of tight games always find a way to bring out one or two bad calls from the refs, too. I'll never forget how the Herd lost the D-II championship game two years ago against Del Oro. Right after the Golden Eagles scored a TD to come to within 12 points in the fourth quarter, they attempted an onside kick. It was clear the Eagles blocked Herd defenders away from the kicked ball prior to the ball passing the required ten yards so that a Del Oro player could recover.
The officials, when asked by Elk Grove coach Chris Nixon for an explanation, acted dumb. They later admitted a mistake and said the video Nixon sent them would be used for future instruction of officials (HERE is a link to that video posted here on the Sports Corner).
Del Oro went on to score on that drive.
Though we'd all like to think the officials will call an objective game Saturday night, it invariably happens that when two very even, very good team play in a big game like a Section championship, someone walks away muttering about a rotten call they got.
I hope I'm wrong, but I think this game could be one of those contests.