Folsom might have more talent and might be a more dynamic football team than Monterey Trail, but on Friday night the Mustangs were the better team.
Monterey Trail’s offense possessed the ball for 20 minutes and 38 seconds of the 24-minute second half, scoring two touchdowns on their way to a 35-23 victory over the Bulldogs. The win knocked Folsom out of the playoffs before the section championship game for the first time since 2009, and also puts Monterey Trail in the championship game for the second straight season.
For the last decade, teams have tried to beat Folsom the way Monterey Trail did Friday, by holding on to the football. While Folsom has lost 12 games in the last 10 years, this might have been the first time a team was able to utilize a clock-chewing ground game to beat the Bulldogs. Folsom only had the ball three times in the second half. They scored on two of those possessions: a 25-yard field goal by Drake Digiorno and a 22-yard touchdown pass from Jake Reithmeier to Elijhah Badger, but it wasn’t enough.
The Mustangs led Folsom 21-14 at halftime and converted two touchdown drives in the second half lasting 10:34 and 8:37 of the game clock. The second and final touchdown, a 15-yard touchdown pass from Viktor Timonin to Antonio Williams on a perfect fade pattern to the pylon, sealed Folsom’s fate.
The Bulldogs took one play to get to the Monterey Trail 19-yard line on a Reithmeier to Daniyel Ngata swing pass, but on the next play, a pass from Reithmeier went off the hands of Zack Cottrell and into the hands of Prophet Brown for an interception. The Mustangs then ran out the clock for the win.
The Bulldogs’ defense simply couldn’t get off the field. The defense actually played the Mustangs well, as they rarely allowed gains of more than five yards. The Mustangs, however, routinely gained three and four yards on every play, and converted several third downs with less than three yards to go. It’s hard to stop a team that seemingly has two yards gained before the defense can do anything about it.
Offensively, Folsom only had the ball for two minutes, 41 seconds in the second half and scored 10 points, but in the first half only scored twice on five possessions. The Bulldogs missed on some opportunities and in a game shortened by a ground game that couldn’t be stopped, it cost them.
In the opening drive of the game, Folsom forced a missed field goal, but a defensive holding call on the attempt, about as rare a penalty on a field goal attempt as you will find, gave the ball back to the Mustangs and led to a touchdown.
The Mustangs took a 14-0 lead with another score on their next possession. Folsom’s next possession started at the Monterey Trail 18-yard line thanks to a long kickoff return from Badger. The Bulldogs, however, couldn’t capitalize on the outstanding field position. They gained two yards on a run play, and then suffered three straight incompletions and turned the ball over on downs.
Folsom eventually tied the game up with a pair of touchdowns; a 51-yard run by Reithmeier and then a 25-yard pass from Reithmeier to Badger. The Mustangs took a 21-14 lead with another score with 2:14 to play in the half. Folsom burned two timeouts to save some time on the clock so they could potentially score before the half and then do it again to start the second half, as they were to receive the second-half kickoff. However, Folsom’s offense sputtered again, as two runs gained only seven yards, and then an incomplete pass forced a fourth-and-three situation and Folsom rightfully decided to punt.
The biggest blunder of the second half came late in the third quarter. Folsom, trailing 21-17, had Monterey Trail in a third-and-25 situation at the Folsom 45-yard line, but was called for pass interference on a 20-yard pass play. It still wouldn’t have been a first down, but an unfortunate 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for yelling at an official gave the Mustangs new life and four more downs. Four plays later, the Mustangs scored to take a 28-17 lead.
Other than that, Folsom’s defense just couldn’t get off the field on the Mustangs’ final scoring drive. Monterey Trail fumbled on the third play of the drive, but recovered the ball. On the drive, the Mustangs converted plays of third-and-three, fourth-and-three, and fourth-and-one to keep the drive alive, and then finally threw the perfect pass on third-and-15 for a touchdown and essentially put the Bulldogs away.
Reithmeier rushed for 94 yards and a score on six carries, but only connected on 6-of-15 passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns. Ngata had two catches for 98 yards, and Badger caught two balls for touchdowns totaling 47 yards. Folsom’s linebackers led the defensive effort, as Dylan Richard and Alex Wong both made 16 tackles, while Davion Blackwell was in on 14.
After the game, the tears flowed as coach Paul Doherty addressed the team, starting by honoring the senior class for their accomplishments, and he went on from there.
“No one feels good right now, and you shouldn’t because you put a lot into this,” Doherty said. “At the end of the day, they did a better job of executing than us. They’re a good football team. You didn’t lose to a slouch, but it doesn’t take anything away from us. You should feel good about what you accomplished. You put a lot into it.”
Folsom assistant head coach Jordan Banning added, “You all hurt now; we all hurt, but be proud of what you accomplished.”
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