Graduation not expected to slow down the Wildcats

Even better in 2012?
By: Jim Linsdau/Placer Herald Sports Editor
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Although the Whitney High School football program graduated outstanding players like quarterback Jake Rodrigues and tight end Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick, there isn’t much sentiment among the Wildcats that this is a rebuilding year – in fact, just the opposite. Although head coach Michael Gimenez acknowledges replacing No. 7 and No. 12 isn’t going to happen, he expressed no notion that was even necessary. Considering Gimenez hasn’t had a losing season since 2006, one has to take him at his word. “No, you’re never going to replace those kids,” Gimenez said of Rodrigues and Cope-Fitzpatrick “We’ve got a lot of talent coming up from our JV team and our JV team was league champions. We actually have seven starters back on offense. And then we have four back on defense.” In fact, Gimenez said they have been working to make the passing game even more dynamic than last year. But, the coach emphasized the offense would also have to feature a strong running game to be competitive and added that Whitney’s coaches are excited about this season’s offensive line and running backs. Anchoring that offensive line is senior Aaron Froidevaux. At 6-foot 3-inches, 290 pounds Froidevaux will also see action on defense. Although a big part of last year’s success, Froidevaux sees even brighter things for 2012. “Honestly, I think we’re better than we were. We work way harder,” said Froidevaux of the Wildcats. “We’ve got some kids that are stepping up for us. Our defense is so solid, they’re so really good.” Froidevaux said he feels the void at quarterback left by Rodrigues isn’t going to be as significant as one would imagine. Ready to fill that position are four able-bodied athletes possessing their own unique skills. One of those is Shawn Hessler. The 6-4, 200-pound junior said Whitney’s starting quarterback would likely be determined following the club’s scrimmage with Grant held this past Saturday. “Grant will be like the last evaluation,” said Hessler, who was listed in a variety of positions last year on both the JV and varsity squads. “I think we’ll make the playoffs – deep in the playoffs. We’ve got a great group of guys.” Hessler said Coach Gimenez had established different personnel groups that fit the talents of each quarterback. For instance, he pointed out that last season’s junior varsity signal-caller Kyle McCray was working a wildcat offense. The athletic McCray had more yards rushing in 2012 than he did passing. Gimenez had high praise for McCray, who filled in for the injured Rodrigues in last year’s playoff game at Del Oro. Still, Gimenez didn’t indicate the junior was necessarily the heir apparent to take over Rodrigues’ spot. “Kyle is so great an all-around player. He can do so much for us,” Coach Gimenez said. “He could play just about anywhere we asked him … wide receiver, running back, I mean he’s obviously a very dynamic player.” Filling out the quarterback quartet were senior Alex Yount and southpaw newcomer Drew Romo. Although Gimenez wasn’t making any predictions, he certainly wasn’t stressed by the situation. On defense, the head coach was more cautious in his assessment than was Froidevaux. Gimenez said there was a lot of carryover from last year but he was going to have to add some wrinkles to better fit the talents of his 2012 players. “There are positions where we’re definitely a lot stronger this year; there’s some positions where we obviously need to improve,” Gimenez said. “They practice really, really hard and it’s a really good team feel. And at times we haven’t had that in the past.” What did seem to concern Gimenez was how short the fall camp had been. He said having a game as early as Aug. 24 was a bit scary and he expects a lot of teams are going to suffer from sloppy play. The ‘Cats open in Napa against Vintage and then come home to face Oakmont Aug. 31. That will set the stage for the Sept. 9 Quarry Bowl at Rocklin. Capital Athletic (Football) League competition for Whitney begins in October against Mira Loma. Although the Wildcats swept the CAL by a combined score of 208-58 last season, Gimenez said the league should be improved this year. “El Camino, I know, is the best team Adam (Reinking) said he has had since he’s been there,” Gimenez said. “I know Antelope was picked in the top 25 in the section so they’re obviously going to do really, really well.” The Whitney coach said he expected to see a resurgence in both Mira Loma and Cordova as each has a new head coach this season. He also pointed out that Rio Americano played with a lot of underclassmen last year and should also be considerably better. In spite of Coach Gimenez’s guarded assessments, optimism has to follow in defining the 2012 Wildcats. And perhaps the better description would be – excited – despite the scorching temperatures in practice and the emotional impact of losing former player and classmate Christian Daniels. Daniels, the outstanding offensive player during last year’s Quarry Bowl, was killed in a tragic accident this summer. But, all this on the young shoulders of Whitney High doesn’t seem to have dampened the enthusiasm or spirit of the Wildcats in preparing for the upcoming season. Even senior team manager Shelby Taylor expressed the maturity and dedication this year’s squad has displayed. “The healing is going to take a while,” she said concerning what they’ve gone through. “But I think they’re finally moving on. I think if they keep practicing the way they are they’ll make the playoffs.” Hardly anyone seemed to think otherwise. Whitney High School 2012 Football Schedule Aug. 24 at Vintage (Napa) 7:30 p.m. Aug. 31 Oakmont TBA Sept. 7 The Quarry Bowl at Rocklin TBA Sept. 16 No Game Sept. 21 Christian Brothers TBA Sept. 28 Rodriguez TBA Oct. 5 *Mira Loma TBA Oct. 13 *at Rio Americano TBA Oct. 19 *El Camino TBA Oct. 26 *at Cordova TBA Nov. 2 *Antelope TBA *Capital Football League Game