High School Football

After locking up Central Catholic, De La Salle adds another section power. Who is it?

Oakdale High's Cameron Cherry (20) drags Folsom's Dylan Jorge (20) down the middle of the field during a nonconference game on Sept. 8. Folsom won, 45-29.
Oakdale High's Cameron Cherry (20) drags Folsom's Dylan Jorge (20) down the middle of the field during a nonconference game on Sept. 8. Folsom won, 45-29. The Modesto Bee

One month after finalizing a home-and-home agreement with four-time state champion Central Catholic, the mighty De La Salle High football program has scheduled another Sac-Joaquin Section power.

The Spartans will open the 2018 season against defending CIF State Division I-AA champion Folsom, which will return its three-headed monster: quarterback Kaiden Bennett, and brothers Joe and Daniyel Ngata, hailed as "The Reno Express," because of their roots in Nevada.

The Bulldogs went 16-0, overcoming a 14-0 deficit to Helix of La Mesa in the state final. Bennett did it all in a 49-42 victory, accounting for 477 yards of total offense and six touchdowns. He passed for 327 yards and rushed for 147 more.

Folsom became just the third school in Sac-Joaquin Section history to punctuate a 16-0 season with a state championship, joining the 2015 Central Catholic Raiders, who whipped San Marino in the Small-School state bowl, and the Bulldogs' team in 2014.

Among Folsom's victories last season was a 45-29 triumph over Oakdale at The Corral on Sept. 9.

De La Salle has bagged a record seven CIF State championships, but has come away empty-handed in the last two Open Division state finals. The Spartans were trumped by St. John Bosco (2016) and Mater Dei (2017) in consecutive seasons.

Like the Bulldogs, though, De La Salle returns a wealth of talent, beginning with All-American linebacker Henry To'oto'o, the captain of a veteran defense.

The 2018 opener will be played in Concord on Aug. 17.

"It's fun, it's good, it's great," De La Salle coach Justin Alumbaugh told MaxPreps' Mitch Stephens, who first reported the news. "This should pack them in. This is a game a lot of people want to see. It will give a different emphasis on the offseason, that's for sure. It's a game with playoff implications from the start."

One week later, De La Salle will host Central Catholic, a private school building its portfolio from the De La Salle model. The Raiders have won four CIF State titles, second-most in the modern era, and have become regulars at the Spartans' summer passing tournament.

Coach Roger Canepa has even fashioned a De La Salle-like schedule. His nonconference lineup in 2018 is as tough as they come: Clovis West, De La Salle, St. Mary's and Lincoln. The Raiders open Valley Oak League play against Manteca, the reigning Sac-Joaquin Section Division III champions.

Just as the thought of "The Reno Express" and Folsom power De La Salle's offseason workouts, Canepa says De La Salle, and the others, motivates Central Catholic.

"It's a privilege to play them, but we're going into it to win," Canepa told The Bee in January. "We don't just want to play them -- we want to beat them, too. We took this game because we want to see how good we are.

"I don't think anyone is scared. It was more like, 'Oh, it's go time.' They were all pretty excited. If you're a kid in this program, that's a good game film to show the scouts. It's a good game film to show anybody. They're a class program."

De La Salle will come to David Patton Field in 2019.

"It will be the biggest game in school history when they come to Central," Canepa said. "We'll pack the place."

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