The skies across our region will be glowing from stadium lights once again, as our area youth athletes strap on the pads, cleats and those shiny new helmets to compete beneath those Friday night lights to kick off their respective 2023 varsity football seasons this week.

Here in the heart of Folsom, many eyes will be on both the Folsom Bulldogs and the Vista del Lago Eagles as they embark on a brand-new quest to be the best in their respect leagues and ultimately the region.  Both teams here in right town have a positive outlook on the season ahead in the city that both “distinct in nature,” and always excited to cheer on its local teams.


“The spirit of high school football is back. It’s the time of year that family, friends, and neighbors get together on Friday nights to support our young athletes,” said Folsom Mayor Rosario Rodriguez, who offered some mayoral cheers to Folsom’s two local teams Wednesday afternoon. “There’s nothing like High School Football. Go Eagles! Go Bulldogs!”

On any given Friday, Rodriguez can often be found in the grandstands of the local games. She’s even traveled to distant title competitions to show her support not only as a city leader, but as diehard fan, something that is not unusual when it comes to Folsom’s city leaders. 


When it comes to Friday night football here, it’s not just the players, the families and the fans that get excited. Business owners in town look forward to the start of the season as well. While most of them are fans themselves of one local team, or both, they are a big fan when it comes to a boost in business before and after the local home games in town. It’s quite common for players, families and fans to patronize local restaurants before and after the local home games each Friday night, whether they are locals or with a traveling team.

“High school football brings an exciting environment because it builds relationships and makes lifelong memories, and that builds community,” added Rodiguez, who has also fed a share of Folsom’s players through the years from the Sutter Street Taqueria she owns and operates in town.


While Folsom has two teams in our immediate coverage thumbprint, there’s a handful in our surrounding communities that are sure to be contenders, whether it’s just up the highway in El Dorado Hills or a few miles north of the city in Granite Bay. Here’s a look at what’s ahead this season, starting Friday night.


Positive Bulldogs ready to bite again

When it comes to the Folsom Bulldogs, they are ready to go to start their season. The former state champs will travel to face Monterey Trail for their first game of the season Friday. It’s the first of several heavy hitting non-league contests they face this year, including powerhouse rival De La Salle as well as Turlock and Edison.  They will travel to all of those games, except De La Salle which they will face at Prairie City Stadium on September 22.

As usual, practices and last week’s scrimmage has drawn a great deal of media attention on Folsom. The team won consecutive state titles in 2017-18 and took the field to try for another one in 2021. Throughout the many interviews and television spots he has done already this season, the Bulldogs head coach Paul Doherty has shared one common thread when speaking of the season ahead, being positive.


“It’s all about good vibes only and most of that is probably directed at the head coach, said Doherty. “Good vibes only is like everyone just has good energy and having fun. We are all trying to be together as a team. This is a real positive group and we’ve got a real good thing going. I think it’s just a challenge to just enjoy it because is a pretty special thing here in Folsom.”

At this time, the QB designation has yet to be officially inked on the team roster as Doherty is still making his decision for the best lead. The two players in line for the spot include Ryder Lyons and Phoenix Hester. 

Last year Folsom finished its season at 12-2. Over the last 12 years Folsom has earned a total of four CIF State titles, nine section titles and 11 league honors. They are in the position this year to earn their third straight Div.1 title if their “good vibes,” carry them through fall. Once again, Folsom has been ranked No.1 by the Sacramento Bee going into the season, a rating that routinely is spot on each year.

View the entire Folsom Bulldogs 2023 schedule by CLICKING HERE.  

Vista’s Eagles ready to soar in 2023

Just up the hill at Vista Del Lago, the Capital Athletic League team looks to improve on their 6-5 record of 2022. The Eagles start their season Friday hosting Manteca. Much like Folsom, the team is energized to get on the field for a strong positive season ahead, according to head coach Kyle Landes. 

“Vista is very excited this year. We feel like we have had the best offseason in program history and it is showing,” Landes told Folsom Times. “We return a large chunk of starters and have bolstered the ranks behind them. We are looking to take this thing to another level out here.”

One of those returning starters will be Quarterback John Koett. In 2022 Koett tallied 2,379 yard and 28 touchdowns. Matt Long is another strong returnee. Last year the wide receiver was good for 1,017 yards and 18 touchdowns overall. 

Last year, Vista was just one victory away from a league title. That final game didn’t go their way when they fell to Christian Brothers in a two-point heartbreaker. That loss, combined with the previous fall to Yuba City has resonated with the team and Landes all through the off season but they are ready to rebound strong from it.

“I haven’t thought about anything else more than those last two games,” said Landes.  “It’s been a big off season for reflection. I would say that we’ve moved past those games now, but we’ve not forgotten the lessons learned.”

See Vista Del Lago’s full 2023 football schedule by CLICKING HERE.

Oak Ridge Trojans face Grant in El Dorado Hills

Just over the county line is Oak Ridge High School where the Trojans are always in the hunt for a title. Last year they contested for it with Folsom, a school that has always been the closed rival to the powerhouse El Dorado Hills squad.

Last year Oak Ridge finish the season 10-3 in the Sierra Foothill League, reaching the finals against Folsom. They won the title back in 2019 and have been in the hunt to get it back from Folsom. This Friday, they open their season at home against Spanish Springs-Nevada. 

“Spanish Springs is a new team for us; they’re a top-10 team in Nevada,” said Oak Ridge coach Casey Taylor. ““We like our non-league schedule. We want that to get us ready for league. We play a wide variety of teams and are all physical and have speed and good athletes and all of those opponents will help us when we open league.”   When it comes to league play, Folsom will be the first team Oak Ridge faces.

Oak Ridge will look to get past the dark cloud of controversy that has started their season off with a negative vibe. Following a hazing incident that involved law enforcement, a number of students were either suspended or expelled. While specific details of the incident haven’t been shared, it has dealt the team and staff an added dose of adversity before the lights have even come on for the year. 

View the entire Oak Ridge 2023 football schedule by CLICKING HERE.

Granite Bay starts off against Elk Grove

Looking northward, the Granite Bay Grizzlies will play Elk Grove on Friday. When it comes to league titles, Granite Bay has been in the hunt for the Sierra Foothill gold in just about every season over the last decade. The 2012 state champions have a roster mixed with returning starters, and many young players that have been tuning their skills since practice began. 

Senior running back Carter Jackson is among the returning starters to the team. Jackson is joined by veteran Isaiah Ene, wide receiver Joseph Cattolico and returning line backers Frank Cusano and Broc Daily.

Friday marks the second straight year that the Grizzlies face the powerful Thundering Herd from Elk Gove, a team that has gotten the best of them in the past. In 2022 Elk Grove beat Granite Bay in the opener 34-12 and this year, they are expected to be just as tough. Joe Cattolico returns as the Grizzlies head coach. Following a scrimmage last week in which they fell to Roseville, Cattolico knows his team has work to do, especially facing Elk Grove’s well coached, powerhouse team that runs well.

“They (Elk Grove) are a physical team that you know will play hard. “They’re going to be good at what they do,” said Cattiloco.” “We’re young in the skill positions. We’ve got good kids, but we’ve got some challenges with our youth.”

The Grizzlies last reached the title finals in 2022 and will look to polish their skills in pre-league to hope for another title run this year when league play goes into action.

View the entire Granite Bay High School football schedule by CLICKING HERE.

Photos: FCUSD/FHS Athletics