Three times in the last four years the Elk Grove High School football team played at Hornet Stadium on the Sacramento State University campus in the Sac-Joaquin Section’s championship game.
Three times in the last four years the Herd has left the locker room in Broad Fieldhouse on the south end of the stadium with heads down, muttering what might have happened if one or two plays might have gone their way.
Each time head coach Chris Nixon, though very disappointed, has found the words to reflect back on the season and find the positives that got the Herd to the championship game. Saturday he had those words after losing the Division I championship to Folsom, 35-27.
“There were a lot of tears shed and a lot of disappointment, but this was a tremendous season,” he said.
Elk Grove came into the game with a 13-0 record. With the same mark was their opponent, Folsom, marking this just the second time a pair of 13-0 teams faced off for a Sac-Joaquin Section championship. The other time came in 1989 when Merced and Nevada Union both were 13-0. Merced ended up the winner that day.
In the past few years Elk Grove has been in the Division II playoffs, but this year under a new rule, were brought up to Division I because of its Delta League championship.
“The Section has its reason for doing what they did, forcing us up to D-1, but to take two teams like this and play us off in Section, it does leave us with an empty feeling like we came away with nothing, “ Nixon said.
For Folsom head coach Kris Richardson the early December games at Sac State is familiar territory. The Bulldogs have now won four straight Section titles, are the defending state champions in Division I and are riding a 30-game winning streak.
Richardson said this Section championship was particularly special because his son, Kooper, a starting offensive lineman, is a senior.
“I’ve watched a lot of these guys go through the youth program and watch them grow up with my own son and it was fun to watch,” Richardson said.
But, obtaining this Section title was a battle for the Bulldogs. Folsom quarterback Jake Jeffrey fumbled on the fourth play of the game, recovered by Lau Ta’amu a the Bulldogs’ 16.
Ryan Robards scored on the next play and then kicked the extra point for an early 7-0 lead.
But when Folsom got the ball back they scored in just five plays. Jeffrey found Christian Huber in the end zone from 12 yards out and after Troy Calderara’s kick the game was tied at seven.
Elk Grove then followed with an 11-play drive that ended when Robards’ 25 yard field goal attempt was kicked into his offensive linemen and Folsom took over their own ten yard line.
The Bulldogs drove the 90 yards in 11 plays with Tre Green running over from the five yard line early in the second quarter for the go-ahead touchdown. After the Calderara kick, it was 14-7, Folsom.
The Bulldogs surprised the crowd of about 10,000 on the ensuing kickoff by trying an onside boot. They recovered at the Elk Grove 46.
“It was one of those kicks that popped up nice and high for them and their kid went up and came down with it,” Nixon commented.
Jeffrey found receivers open in the Elk Grove zone defense and six plays later Jeffrey hit Drake Stallworth on an 18-yard touchdown completion to push their lead to 21-7 with 8:36 left in the first half.
In the opening half, Jeffrey threw for 349 yards, completing 20 of 25 passes.
Once again, the Bulldogs tried an onside kickoff, but this time the Herd recovered and had great field position at their own 48. Herd quarterback Jayden Machado, who was also having a good half throwing the football, hit Gavin Reinwald on a 36 yard strike down to the Folsom four.
On the next play Robards ran it over from the four yard line to pull the Herd to even at 14-14 after he kicked the extra point.
Folsom roared right back on their next series with a 60-yard pass from Jeffrey to Eric Davis to the Elk Grove 13. But, for the first time, the Herd defense stiffened. They turned the ball over to Elk Grove on downs at the eight.
The Bulldog defense forced Elk Grove to give the ball back and Robards booted the game’s only punt. Eight plays later Jeffrey once again hooked up with Stallword on a TD pass, this one from 14 yards out, and the Bulldog lead was stretched to 28-14 with only 1:22 left in the half.
Elk Grove once again came knocking on the door after Machado hooked up with Reinwald on a 39-yard strike to the Folsom 11. The scoreboard clock showed no time remaining in the second quarter, but officials placed one second on the board.
Instead of attempting what would have been about a 28-yard field goal, Nixon decided to try for a touchdown. Machado was chased out of the pocket when he didn’t see anyone open and was taken down at the nine yard line as the horn sounded.
Elk Grove had the ball to open the second half. Robards, who had only 41 yards rushing in the opening two quarters, went to work. He reeled off a 29 yard run to get the Herd into Bulldog territory. Machado capped the nine-play drive with an 11-yard TD pass to Reinwald. Elk Grove was to within seven points at 28-21.
Richardson decided at halftime to take a page out of Elk Grove’s playbook and run the ball for much of the second half.
“They own the third quarter running the ball and they kept our defense on the field quite a bit, but we know we can run the ball quite a bit, too, when we want to get after somebody,” he said.
Jeffrey ended up with only 29 yards passing in the second half.
On the 13th play of the Bulldogs’ drive Jeffrey was intercepted by Austin Archuleta at the Elk Grove at the 26 and he returned the ball 34 yards to the Folsom 40.
Robards scored on the first play from scrimmage Elk Grove was within one point at 28-27. Robards’ kick to tie the game was missed just wide left.
Folsom got a big boost right away when Christian Huber returned the ensuing kickoff 53 yards to the Elk Grove 43. On the first play of the fourth quarter Roger Neal scored from the six yard line to move Folsom’s lead to 35-27.
The Herd took over following the kickoff at their own 21. They moved the ball to the Folsom 45 yard line and on a fourth-and-11 Elk Grove went for it but Machado was hit from behind by Jonah Williams, fumbled the ball and it was pounced on by Ariel Ngata with 7:35 left in the game.
On the next play Jeffrey tried a long pass down the middle only for it to be picked off by Julius Fullah at the goalline. He returned the interception to the Elk Grove 44.
Once again the Herd drove the ball into Folsom territory. They converted a fourth-and-17 at their own 49 when Machado completed a 22-yard pass to Jonas McMillan.
On a fourth-and nine at the Folsom 28, Machado’s pass to Reinwald fell a yard short of the first down and the Bulldogs took over.
The Herd defense had Folsom stuck in a fourth-and one situation at the Bulldog 29 with 1:29 left in the game.
Folsom hasn’t punted the ball in years and Richardson wasn’t going to start, so he had his team line up in a tight formation with Jeffrey in a shotgun. He went into a long count.
Elk Grove linebacker Jake Bellecci tried to anticipate the snap of the ball and accidently stepped into the neutral zone. Whistles blew and flags flew and a five-yard penalty against the Herd gave Folsom a first down.
They ran out the clock on the game and on the Elk Grove season.
Jeffrey finished 26-of 34 passing for 377 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Richardson said he knew Jeffrey would be able to have games like this.
“I’ve said when Jake Browning left, Jake Jeffrey would be the best quarterback in our Section and he’s done that,” Richardson said.
Now, Richardson and his coaching staff will prepare for a Northern California Regional Championship game, likely against Bellarmine of San Jose.
“We win our fourth straight Section championship and our reward is getting to go back to our place to play next weekend,” he said. “Going undefeated was great, but winning our Section is always our goal and from there everything else is cherry on the cake.”
Box Score (Final)
Score by Quarters 1 2 3 4 Score
----------------- -- -- -- -- -----
Elk Grove........... 7 7 13 0 - 27 Record: (13-1)
Folsom.............. 7 21 0 7 - 35 Record: (14-0)
Scoring Summary: EG - FL
11:08 EG - Ryan Robards 16 yd run (Ryan Robards kick)
1 play, 16 yards, TOP 0:30 7 - 0
8:01 FL - Christian Huber 12 yd pass from Jake Jeffrey (Troy Calderara kick)
5 plays, 53 yards, TOP 3:07 7 - 7
10:42 FL - Tre Green 5 yd run (Calderara kick)
11 plays, 90 yards, TOP 4:01 7 - 14
8:36 FL - Drake Stallworth 18 yd pass from Jeffrey (Calderara kick)
5 plays, 46 yards, TOP 2:06 7 - 21
7:42 EG - Ryan Robards 4 yd run (Robards kick)
4 plays, 52 yards, TOP 0:54 14 - 21
1:22 FL - Stallworth 14 yd pass from Jeffrey (Calderara kick)
8 plays, 76 yards, TOP 1:49 14 - 28
8:22 EG - Gavin Reinwald 11 yd pass from Jayden Machado (Robards kick)
9 plays, 65 yards, TOP 3:38 21 - 28
2:52 EG - Robards 40 yd run (Robards kick failed)
1 play, 40 yards, TOP 0:09 27 - 28
11:53 FL - Roger Neal 6 yd run (Calderara kick)
7 plays, 43 yards, TOP 2:59 27 - 35
FIRST DOWNS................... 19 23
RUSHES-YARDS (NET)............ 32-162 32-95
PASSING YDS (NET)............. 219 377
Passes Att-Comp-Int........... 26-16-0 34-26-2
TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS... 58-381 66-472
Fumble Returns-Yards.......... 0-0 0-0
Punt Returns-Yards............ 0-0 0-0
Kickoff Returns-Yards......... 3-45 3-107
Interception Returns-Yards.... 2-77 0-0
Punts (Number-Avg)............ 1-45.0 0-0.0
Fumbles-Lost.................. 2-1 3-1
Penalties-Yards............... 4-32 5-50
Possession Time............... 21:42 26:18
Sacks By: Number-Yards........ 2-6 1-0
RUSHING: Elk Grove-Ryan Robards 23-159; Julius Fullah 4-5; Mike Dunn 1-1;
Jacob Jordan 1-minus 1; Jayden Machado 3-minus 2. Folsom-Jake Jeffrey 21-60;
Eric Davis 4-22; Roger Neal 3-22; Tre Green 1-5; Davin Simmons 2-2; Team
PASSING: Elk Grove-JaydenMachado 15-25-0-219; Ryan Robards 0-1-0-0.
Folsom-Jake Jeffrey 26-34-2-377.
RECEIVING: Elk Grove-Gavin Reinwald 6-110; Jonas McMillan 4-42; Jake Bellecci
2-32; Ryan Robards 2-19; Aidan Martinez 1-9; JuliusFullah 1-7.
Folsom-Eric Davis 6-147; Drake Stallworth 6-92; Christian Huber 4-49;
Brandon Rupchock 4-31; Tre Green 3-53; Roger Neal 2-0; Jack Sa 1-5.
INTERCEPTIONS: Elk Grove-Austin Archuleta 1-34; Julius Fullah 1-43.
Stadium: Hornet Stadium Attendance: 0
Kickoff time: 06:00 End of Game: Total elapsed time: -
Temperature: 50 Wind: 0 Weather: cloudy
#2 Elk Grove vs #1 Folsom (Dec 05, 2015 at Sacramento State)
SACKS (UA-A): Elk Grove-TyroneMoore 0-2; Aidan Martinez 0-2.
TACKLES (UA-A): Elk Grove-AustinArchuleta 6-2; Jake Bellecci 5-2; Jake Blum
4-2; Ryan Robards 2-4; JuliusFullah 2-4; DylanEldred 4-1; Aidan Martinez
3-2; TylerGore 2-3; Jacob Cornelio 3-1; TyroneMoore 0-3; LauTaamu 2-0;
DarynMenefee 1-1; JonasMcMillan 1-0; RyanVierra 1-0; JacobJordan 1-0; 24
1-0; AndruwMartinez 0-1. Folsom-RogerNeal 4-5; ShawnJohnson 5-1; MattTorres
3-3; BradJenner 3-1; TreGreen 3-1; ArielMgata 1-3; BrandonRupchock 3-0;
BrendanMurphy 0-3; JakeJeffrey 2-0; JoshKim 2-0; DrakeStallworth 1-1;
ChristianHuber 1-0; JonahWilliams 1-0; SutherlandMonah 1-0; MasenWilson 1-0;
MarkWeldy 1-0; Davin Simmons 1-0; TannerWard 1-0.