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Brothers extend bond to football field

By: Cecil Conley, Sports Editor
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By Cecil Conley Sports Editor A comment made in jest by his brother was no laughing matter for Matt Laughrea. The Rocklin High School junior was left with having to decide whether to stick with soccer or try football. Laughrea chose football even though he would be cast in the shadow of his older brother, Jimmy. And that shadow is immense, given Jimmy’s stellar play last season as the Thunder went 14-1. Jimmy passed for 2,635 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2009 as Rocklin claimed the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship. A broken left arm knocked him out of the state title game. Servite defeated Rocklin 33-30, but local fans wonder what might have been had Jimmy been healthy. Rocklin made it a game with senior wide receiver Tiger Sorenson in relief at quarterback. Jimmy has returned as a senior, but Sorenson and the Thunder’s other two top receivers in 2009 are gone. The shortage of hands prompted Jimmy to ask Matt if he had any interest in football. “I said it jokingly because I didn’t think he would do,” said Jimmy, who realized when he broached the subject that Matt would have to give soccer the boot and skip a season of club volleyball. That was a hefty price for Matt to pay with nothing guaranteed in football. He had more than willing to let football be his brother’s domain and created his identity in soccer and volleyball. “I purposely went in a different direction,” he said. Matt did enough last fall to impress the varsity soccer coaches and receive a promotion from the junior varsity. As Jimmy led the football team to a section title, Rocklin also won one in soccer. “Soccer was definitely hard to give up. I still love soccer, but I thought football would be a fun thing to try,” Matt said. “I’ve played every sport there is. After 12 years of soccer, it was getting old.” Matt is leaving soccer to give his brother a hand – or two. Jimmy expects his brother to do just that. “He’s always been a good athlete,” Jimmy said. “He already understands as much as the other kids.” Head coach Greg Benzel has been impressed with Matt’s progress, given the difficulty of the transition. “It’s no small task coming out for varsity football. It requires a lot of time and a ton of energy,” Benzel said. “He’s always had a connection with his brother, and we want them to bring that connection to the football field. The switch to football was not all that easy for Matt. When he joined the football players for weightlifting last winter, some of them questioned whether he was serious about sticking it out. “There were a few guys who didn’t give any respect,” he said. “They called me a soccer player.” For Matt to get respect, he would have to earn it by proving he was tough enough to take the hitting. A slide tackle in soccer is nothing compared to going across the middle to catch a pass. Respect is coming Matt’s way. He has already worked his way into a starting position at wide receiver. Doing so allowed him to escape his brother’s shadow in football and stand on his own. “After how good Jimmy did last year, I was Jimmy’s little brother,” he said. “Now that I’m starting, I’m Matt.”