PREP FOOTBALL: Sierra Foothill League once again filled with talented teams |

PREP FOOTBALL: Sierra Foothill League once again filled with talented teams

Head coach Dennis Houlihan talks to players Owen Day (23) and Tyler Nielson (5) during a game earlier this season. The Miners open Sierra Foothill League play Friday against Rocklin.
Laura Mahaffy/ |

When it comes to high school football, the Sierra Foothill League ranks among the best in the state. With a multitude of power house programs, the SFL is regularly represented in Sac-Joaquin Section Championship games as well as CIF State Bowl games.

Since 2010, the football teams that make up the current SFL have competed in seven state championship games, winning four along the way (Del Oro in 2015, Folsom in 2010 and 2014, Granite Bay in 2012). Last year, Folsom won the Sac-Joaquin Section D-I title, and Del Oro claimed the D-II title after beating another SFL team in Rocklin in the championship game.

This year the SFL continues to be one of the premiere leagues in the state as three teams are currently ranked by in the state’s top 50 teams (No. 14 Del Oro, No. 26 Folsom, No. 50 Rocklin).

For the Miners, who last won a section title in 2009, their trek through the vaunted SFL begins Friday with Rocklin.

Here’s a brief look at the teams in the SFL and what they have done so far this season.

Del Oro Golden Eagles (4-0)

The defending D-II AA state champion Golden Eagles are off to an impressive start with non-league wins over St. Paul (Santa Fe Springs), Pleasant Valley (Chico), Bellermine (San Jose) and Capital Christian. Del Oro is scoring 38.5 points per game while allowing just 14 per game. The Golden Eagles are talented and experienced. Leading the offense is senior quarterback Stone Smartt who is 43-for-63 for 709 yards, six touchdowns and one interception this season. Smartt can also run the ball and has 157 yards and a touchdown on just 22 carries. Senior receiver Mason Hurst is Smartt’s no. 1 target with 25 catches for 499 yards and three touchdowns. Senior running back Camrion Davis leads the team with 254 rush yards and six touchdowns. On the defensive side of the ball, Del Oro gets after the quarterback with 17 sacks already. The defense has also forced 10 turnovers.

Del Oro opens SFL play against Granite Bay Friday.

Folsom Bulldogs (3-1)

Folsom lost their first regular season game since 2011 when they fell to Sacramento last Friday, but don’t be fooled the Bulldogs still have plenty of bite. Folsom’s offense is averaging 44.75 points per game this season, helping them to blowout wins over Coeur d’Alene (Idaho), Jesuit and Pleasant Grove.

Leading Folsom’s this year is senior quarterback Joe Curry, who is completing passes at a 67 percent clip and already has 1,331 yards passing to go with 14 touchdowns. Folsom has a trio of talented receivers, all of which are over 300 yards receiving this season. The Bulldogs can also run the ball as well, averaging 184.5 rush yards per game.

Folsom faces off with Woodcreek Friday.

Rocklin Thunder (3-1)

Rocklin has played four really close games this season, three of which were decided by a single point. The Thunder are 2-1 in those games, beating Clovis West (28-27) and Whitney (18-17), and losing to Grant (21-20). Rocklin also beat Napa (28-16). The Thunder do most of their damage through the air, averaging 198.5 passing yards per game and just 96.5 on the ground. Rocklin’s defense is also strong, allowing 20.3 points per game, which is second only to Del Oro among SFL teams this season.

Rocklin travels to Hooper Stadium to take on Nevada Union Friday.

Oak Ridge Trojans (3-1)

The Trojans won their first three games in convincing fashion, topping Vista del Lago (50-18), Vacaville (41-15) and Burbank (49-14), but ran into trouble against Reed (Sparks, Nevada) last week and lost 55-34. Oak Ridge lost last year’s quarterback Ian Book to Notre Dame, but have not lost a step offensively, putting up 43.5 points per game. The Trojans are led by junior quarterback Marco Baldacchino who already has 12 passing touchdowns to just one interception. In addition to Baldacchino’s 702 yards passing, he’s also rushed for 141 yards and three ground touchdowns. As a team they average 368.5 yards per game on offense (768 pass, 706 rush). Defensively, the Trojans were allowing just 15.7 points per game before Reed put 55 up on them, moving their average points allowed per game to 25.5.

The Trojans are the lone SFL team to have a bye this week.

Nevada Union Miners (2-2)

The Miners have split their first four contests, winning a couple close ones over Placer (16-12) and Lincoln (21-14), and losing a pair of close ones to Antelope (28-21) and Napa (35-34). Nevada Union has their best varsity team in years and is confident heading into league play, said head coach Dennis Houlihan.

“I feel confident with them. I really do. I don’t think we’re going to get pushed around like we’ve been,” he said. “I do think there are some teams we will really compete with and have a chance to beat.”

NU’s offense has shown promise with junior running back Tyler Nielson leading the way with 378 rush yards and three total touchdowns. Junior quarterback Owen Dal Bon (29-for-58, 510 passing yards, five touchdowns) and junior receiver Hayden Fay (15 receptions, 309 yards, four touchdowns) have also energized the Miners passing game this season. NU’s defense has also shown promise, but still lacks consistency.

The Miners open league play at home against Rocklin Friday.

Woodcreek Timberwolves (2-2)

The Timberwolves have early season wins over Vintage (17-7) and Davis (31-21), but also have bad losses to Sheldon (46-21) and Antelope (49-28). Woodcreek, who along with NU were the only SFL teams not to make the playoffs last season, has found success rushing the ball this season. The Timberwolves are led by senior Tyler England (380 rush yards, four touchdowns) and junior Isaiah Ajayi (296 yards, three touchdowns).

Woodcreek opens the league season at Folsom.

Granite Bay Grizzlies (1-3)

The Grizzlies have had a rough start to the season, dropping games to Jesuit (28-10), Whitney (41-21) and Vacaville (46-23). Granite Bay’s lone win came against Oak Grove (27-14).

Granite Bay has struggled offensively, scoring just 20.3 points per game which ranks last among SFL teams. Granite Bay is allowing 32.3 points per game on average, which is also last among SFL teams.

The Grizzlies open league play against Del Oro Friday.

All statistics for this story are courtesy of

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email

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