Turns out, the crowning moment for the Folsom High School football team 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 talented players, pens in hand, hovering over a table decorated with balloons.
Folsom officially capped its record season with National Signing Day as six seniors signed letters of intent. The signees were players who contributed all over the field in Folsom's storybook 14-1 season.
Bee Player of the Year Dano Graves, the record-setting passer, and still-growing, impressive-upside tight end Marcus Hendricks are headed to the Air Force Academy. Two others are off to the Pacific-10 Conference, perhaps to some day face each other across the line of scrimmage, with defensive back Jordan Richards headed to Stanford and wide receiver Tyler Trosin selecting Oregon State.
Linebacker Burton DeKoning is bound for Nevada, where he could be chasing down Graves in the open field as a rival and trying to ward off blocks from Hendricks. And center Stephen Sippel, who emerged as a late recruit, will go to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to study at a school that appreciates his 4.0 grade-point average.
It was a record run for the Bulldogs, who have not before had 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; 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 marveled at his son's maturity and opportunity and said 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. "He's heard me bellyache about how cruel the world is, when right now for him, it's pretty good."
Graves looked as if a huge weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He agonized in the 11th hour – Sacramento State or Air Force. Both schools presented tantalizing offers and challenges. He selected Air Force but raved about Sac State, too.
"It's all over," Graves said of the recruiting process. "I feel like it's a big relief. We can all be happy."
DeKoning sported a pink cast on his left arm, not exactly a color that matches his reputation as a ferocious linebacker. He played the entire season with a broken bone in his wrist, holding off surgery so he wouldn't leave his teammates shorthanded.
DeKoning joked that some day he'll have that cast back on to pursue Graves in a game. Graves countered that DeKoning would not be able to catch him.