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Judge success by the effort Judge success by the effort Judge success by the effort

By: Jim Linsdau Placer Herald Sports Editor
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Both Rocklin and Lincoln were turned back in their respective football game last Friday that left the Thunder at 3-4, and 0-2 in the Sierra Foothill League. The Fighting Zebras now find themselves with a 2-5 record, 1-1 in the Pioneer Valley League. However, that does not mean they are necessarily out of the Sac-Joaquin Section Playoffs. The leagues were realigned a couple of years ago to put no more than six teams in any conference. The playoffs were set up so teams that might not win their respective leagues might actually qualify for postseason play in a division other than that represented by their league. The SJS set the qualifying standard for any team in the top four divisions at five wins during the season, and at least two wins in the respective team’s league. Both Rocklin and Lincoln have three games remaining and could reach playoff requirements depending on the outcomes. Of course, it doesn’t mean winning five games, and two in league, would automatically qualify a team for postseason play, but it would make them eligible. The Thunder would only need to win two of their remaining games to reach the qualification plateau. They don’t have any weak teams to go through, but don’t write off Rocklin as being in that category, either. Thunder head coach Greg Benzel isn’t making any wild predictions, but he feels his players work too hard to have to settle for second best. It’s true he may have lost his No. 1 quarterback to injury, but he’s quick to point out that’s only one position of 22. “There’s other factors, as well,” said Benzel as to what the future might bring. “We have to stay as positive as we can. Our guys work a lot harder than what they are getting (for the effort).” No school that I cover seems to have a pride problem. Having watched both Lincoln and Rocklin play, and even Whitney High School, there is no give up. That alone, of course, doesn’t mean the other schools in their respective leagues don’t carry that same swagger, but that’s what puts the final outcome in question. Whitney’s Wildcats may be in the Capital Athletic League driver’s seat, but the Thunder players have not resigned themselves to the backseat. Should it be that Rocklin wouldn’t reach that pinnacle, it won’t be for lack of effort. And if nothing else it would send a greater signal to underclassmen as to what it takes to be No. 1. It means playing as if unwilling to accept anything less – that’s the true trademark of success. This country was not built on settling for second best. It pleases me to see this same camaraderie among the young athletes I’ve had the privilege to observe and report on.