Meet Joseph And Daniyel Ngata — The Sibling Spark Plugs Behind The 2017 Folsom Offensive Juggernaut
Story by Steven Wilson | Photos by James K. Leash
Before we dive into the story of Folsom’s potent Ngata brothers and their dominance on the football field this year, let’s dispel some myths first.
No, the Ngatas are not related to former Oregon and current NFL defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.
And no, Joseph Ngata cannot *technically* fly. Okay, that one is a stretch, but he does try to hurdle defenders quite often, and he is one of the most-physically gifted receivers the Sac-Joaquin Section has seen in a long time. Just ask his coach.
“The physical specimen that Joe Ngata is simply doesn’t come around very often,” longtime Folsom coach Kris Richardson admitted. “Sure, we’ve had some incredible guys play here, but Joe is a 6-4, 215-pound freak.”
Ngata showcased a glimpse of that freak ability on a 26-yard, second-half touchdown against Oak Ridge-El Dorado Hills in the final game of the 2017 Sierra Foothill League slate. After catching a five-yard out for a first down, Ngata turned up field, hurdled a defender and broke two tackles en route to the end zone. It was one of two scores for the talented wideout in the game as his team claimed a big, rivalry win.
“My role changes from week to week, but I just try to take advantage of the opportunities I’m given,” Ngata explained. “Sometimes, I try to open up the defense and take it deep, other times I am there to convert first downs and become more of a possession receiver. Either way, I’m here to help my team win.”
Whether he starts in the backfield on an end-around or fly-sweep, or he hauls in a big completion, when Ngata touches the ball, big things happen.
This year, he’s accounted for 18 receiving touchdowns and had another score on a 73-yard reverse against Granite Bay. On 60 receptions, he’s accounted for 1,321 yards, which equals an astonishing 22 yards per catch.
When you ask opposing coaches, there’s no doubt. Ngata is one of the top prospects in the state for the 2019 class and that’s helped him collect double-digit scholarship offers already.
One such offer is from the University of Washington, where his older brother Ariel plays linebacker. He also has offers from Cal, Notre Dame, Utah, Penn State, Colorado, Oregon State, USC and Oregon. Every West Coast school wants him, but that decision is still at least a year away.
For now, he’s enjoying his first opportunity to play football with his younger brother and his third shot at a section championship.
“This is actually the first time we’ve played together, and it’s been great,” Joseph’s brother Daniyel Ngata said. “We have each other’s back and we encourage each other all the time.”
Although he’s just a sophomore, Daniyel Ngata picked up the Bulldogs’ playbook quickly. On top of late night study sessions with his brother, he’s had help from last year’s starting running back Brandon Rupchock.
“He’s my mentor,” Daniyel acknowledged. “He’s playing receiver, but he knows the offense really well, and that’s allowed him to play everywhere on the field. He’s been a big help.”
The youngest Ngata brother also spent time with rising star quarterback Kaiden Bennett, going over plays and building a foundation throughout the offseason and into the regular season. That work has paid off as he’s become Folsom’s leading running back with over 600 yards and seven scores.
Long before the terrific twosome took the gridiron together, they suited up in a different uniform.
Both brothers began their lives on a soccer pitch, playing the sport their father grew up enjoying. They eventually transitioned to the hardwood and took up basketball before a few family members saw their potential.
“Our dad was afraid of us getting hit, because we’re more of a soccer family,” Daniyel explained. “He grew up in Africa and soccer is huge there. But my cousins all played football and they convinced my dad to let us try out.
“It ended up being a great choice.”
Although he was primarily positioned as a defender in soccer, Joseph Ngata utilized his size and speed to take advantage of opponents at multiple positions on the pitch. That experience helped him develop his footwork and field vision for the gridiron. It also brought out the best in him.
“Playing soccer under my dad’s guidance helped us learn how to compete,” Joseph said. “We learned to be the best at what we’re doing, no matter what it is, just compete. That’s how we were raised. You are either at the top or you’re at the bottom.”
Originally from Reno, Nevada, the Ngatas moved to the Folsom area following middle school in order to be closer to family.
They’ve made a name for themselves and their big-play ability helped the Bulldogs earn a 10-0 record in the regular season, their sixth SFL title and fourth-straight undefeated league championship. Now, they’re ready for redemption.
The Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship game on Dec. 2 will be more than a grudge match against the team that knocked Folsom out of the playoffs last season.
It will be the eighth straight section championship game the Bulldogs have played in, the fifth at the Div. I level after three straight in Div. II. The team has won five of those seven games and will be looking for a sixth title with a win over St. Mary’s on Saturday at 1:45 p.m. at Sacramento State.
Last year, St. Mary’s ended Folsom’s hopes of a fourth successive championship by beating the Bulldogs 56-25.
“St. Mary’s is a great program,” Richardson admitted. “(Coach) Tony (Franks) does a great job there. We’re familiar with them after playing them the last two years — they got us once and we got them once — so we’ll go in and see who wins.”
Joseph Ngata thinks those past matchups will pay off.
“I know it’s going to be fun,” he said. “I just know that this is the time where you put your foot on the pedal and go. You don’t let up – you play fast and hard, this is the time.”
Throwing (and handing off) to the Ngata brothers has made Folsom’s offense one of the most explosive programs in the section this year. But the ball still runs through their quarterback’s hands on nearly every snap.
In the section semifinals, Kaiden Bennett tossed three touchdowns and ran for another as his team beat Jesuit-Carmichael 27-14. Those four scores bumped the junior up to a whopping 57 touchdowns this season — the most for the program since 2014 when Jake Browning threw for 91 and ran in 5 more.
“Kaiden is an incredible player,” Richardson exclaimed. “Kaiden Bennett and Joe Ngata are the two best players in the section — bar none. It’s not even close. And for Kaiden, he started as an already great player, but now he’s an incredible quarterback and I’m thrilled to have him.”
Bennett tossed one of those scores to Daniyel Ngata, who scampered 29 yards to the house on a screen pass to give Folsom a 13-7 lead. The younger Ngata suited up for last year’s showdown with St. Mary’s but didn’t get a chance to show what he could do. This year will be different, and he’s handling the pressure like a seasoned vet.
“It’s good to be here, but honestly it’s just another game,” Daniyel said. “We’ve still got a lot to prove and a long ways to go.”
Whether they have one game, or three more, the Ngatas are ready for the challenge and they’ll have the support of their father at every game.
“I don’t think he’s ever missed a game,” Daniyel said.
Although they’re not dribbling past defenders and scoring goals on the soccer field, the Ngata brothers have made their father, and their family, proud. They’re on the precipice of the biggest game of their young careers and they’re both up for the challenge.
“Our dad says he’ll be happy if we’re able to get a scholarship and get a free education,” Daniyel said. “As long as we’re happy, go to college and be successful, he’s going to embrace it.”