By Joe Davidson
Turns out the crowning moment for the Folsom Bulldogs wasn't in December, in the mud and muck of Carson at the Home Depot Center after sloshing to a state championship.
It was Wednesday afternoon, on campus, in a sun-drenched library with six anchor talents, pens in hand, hovering over a table anchored by balloons.
Folsom officially capped its record season with National Signing Day as six seniors signed letters of intent to continue their student-athlete lives.
The fitting angle here was the signees were players who contributed all over the field as Folsom put forth a team-wide effort to stage a 14-1 season.
Two players are headed to the Air Force Academy in Bee Player of the Year Dano Graves, the record-setting passer, and still-growing, unlimited-upside tight end Marcus Hendricks. Two are off to the Pacific-10 Conference, perhaps to some day oppose each other head-to-head, with defensive back Jordan Richards headed to Stanford and receiver Tyler Trosin off to Oregon State.
One is bound for Nevada to play linebacker in Burton DeKoning, who soon could be chasing down Graves in the open field as a rival and trying to ward off blocks from Hendricks. And Stephen Sippel emerged as a late recruit as the center will go to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to study at a school that matches his 4.0 grade-point average.
All in all, it was a record run for the Bulldogs, who have never sent so many scholarship kids in one season.
"This is the culmination of our high school dreams," said Richards, donning a "Fear the Tree" red T-shirt.
Parents, coaches, media and administrators packed the library to witness the moment. There was relief in the voices of parents, pride in the expressions of players.
Hendricks' father, Don, a senior business representative for PG&E, recalled how injuries derailed his college football ambitions. He marvels at his son's maturity and opportunity, and cracked that he may be finally ready to tone down his lectures a bit.
"This is so great for him and he's worked so hard," Don said of his son. "He's heard me belly ache about how cruel the world is when right now for him, it's pretty good."
Graves looked as if the weight of the region had been lifted from his shoulders. He agonized over what to do in the 11th hour - Sacramento State or Air Force. Both schools presented tantalizing offers and challenges. He elected for Air Force but raved about Sac State, too.
"It's all over," Graves said of the signing madness. "I feel like it's a big relief. We can all be happy."
DeKoning was sporting a pink cast on his left arm, not normally the color for such a ferocious linebacker. He played the entire season with a broken bone in his wrist, not electing to hold off surgery as to not leave his teammates shorthanded.
He joked that some day he'll have that cast back on to pursue Graves in a game.
Graves countered that he'd never catch him. Fun and games again.