After Laughrea goes down, Thunder bows out

By: Robbie Enos, Correspondent
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Life without Jimmy Laughrea began far too soon for Rocklin High School’s football team. Once the Thunder lost its quarterback, a loss in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoffs followed. River City knocked out Rocklin with a 22-17 victory Friday night in West Sacramento. The Raiders (10-1) advance to face Grant (11-0). The Thunder (7-4) is left to wonder what went wrong. Laughrea was injured at the end of an 8-yard run late in the third quarter with the score tied at 14-all. Rocklin took the lead in the fourth quarter on a 32-yard field goal by Seth Casiple. A 37-yard attempt by Casiple was blocked a few minutes later, however. A 41-yard run by Jason Dunn was the big play for River City as the Raiders marched into position to take the lead. River City did just that with four minutes to play when T.J. Soto scored on a 4-yard run. “It is a great feeling baby,” Soto said. “We won it and we’re ready to go. It couldn’t get any better than this.” Rocklin could not gain a first down on its ensuing possession with backup quarterback Austin Tautu running the offense. The Thunder’s last hope with 1:05 left ended when Tautu threw an interception. Thunder head coach Greg Benzel did not take many chances with Tautu at quarterback. Of Rocklin’s final 17 plays, just three were passes. Benzel did not blame the loss on losing Laughrea, however. “The reality for us is that if we had had a better first half and taken care of the football, then we would have had a little bit more of a cushion so that we could handle that loss,” Benzel said. “Because we didn’t do that, losing him limited us on offense and some of the things that we could do and not do.” Rocklin led 14-7 at halftime, scoring on a 4-yard by Brian Macdonald and an 18-yard pass from Laughrea to C.J. Torretta. The Thunder had another scoring opportunity late in the first half with first-and-goal at River City’s 11-yard line, but Laughrea’s pass was intercepted by Ronnie Tillman with 42 seconds left. This was not at all what the Thunder and its fans expected after last year’s team finished 14-1 and reached a state championship game. Benzel put the loss in perspective as only he can. “When you look at all of what our guys have accomplished and what they’ve done this year, it’s tough to be disappointed,” Benzel said. “You don’t ever want it to end; you want it to go as long as it could go.”