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Pain is no gain for football teams

By: Cecil Conley, Sports Editor
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By Cecil Conley Sports Editor Mike Gimenez cannot buy a break. Injuries are taking a toll on his Whitney High School football team, and there is no relief in sight. The Wildcats do not have a bye week on their schedule. Greg Benzel’s Rocklin High team has one, and he is looking forward to it. The Thunder is feeling the effects of four games, and the fifth arrives Friday night when Rocklin travels to Ponderosa. Whitney will play its fourth game when it hosts Christian Brothers. The Wildcats bounced back from a 48-19 loss to Rocklin on Sept. 10 to beat Vanden 39-36 in their home opener last Friday. Gimenez’s team is 2-1 despite a defense that has allowed 124 points. Whitney survived last week without its only two returning starters on defense, linebackers Brandt Wright and Connor Riordan. Wright is nursing a sports hernia. Riordan has a pinched nerve in his neck, also known as a stinger. Neither will play Friday, so Gimenez’s young defense is losing experience as it tries to gain it. “The kids are learning because they’re playing against older kids who are a little bigger or a little faster,” Gimenez said. “They’re learning to compete at the varsity level. It’s on-the-job training.” Gimenez does not expect any sympathy because “you’re seeing (injuries) all around. To keep guys healthy is almost pure luck.” Rocklin (3-1) has had its share of bumps and bruises, but Benzel is not going to play the pity card. No one is going to feel sorry for a team that reached the state championships last season. The Thunder has had better luck on the injury front since its season opener Aug. 27 than it did during the offseason. Rocklin lost returning starters Ryan Payne and Dean Phillips to injuries. Payne continues to recover from a knee injury, and Phillips is still plagued by a lower back problem. Their absence left the Thunder without two senior defensive linemen with varsity experience. Benzel lost another senior during the week of the opener when running back Cody Miller tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Miller was battling Brian Macdonald for playing time. With Miller out, Macdonald has become a workhorse for Rocklin with 73 carries for 430 yards and five touchdowns. The senior rushed for 275 yards and four touchdowns against Whitney. No other Rocklin player has more than 25 carries as Rocklin has relied on Macdonald to carry the load. Even Macdonald could use a break, however, and the bye next week arrives at a perfect time. “We’re welcoming the break,” Benzel said. “We need the rest. We need to get ready for (the Sierra Foothill League) so we can go at full throttle.” Whitney will make its Capital Athletic League debut next Friday when it hosts Mira Loma of Sacramento.