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Rallying the troops

By: Jim Linsdau Placer Herald Sports Editor
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It was hard to watch, Friday, when Whitney High football standout Jake Rodrigues suffered a season-ending ankle injury and broken fibula. It was even more difficult for his teammates, who were immediately struck with their fallen leader’s pain, and a feeling of helplessness, and even hopelessness. My hat goes off to the coaches who pulled the team through it and rallied them to complete the game, and send Jake off to the hospital with the victory safe in hand. The task now before head coach Michael Gimenez and his staff is to bring the Wildcats back together to finish the job still ahead. “We’ve got a lot of good players, and obviously we’re not going to replace (Jake),” Gimenez said after the game. “Our defense has been playing great. Connor (Graves) has been doing some great stuff; we’ve got other quarterbacks in our program. We’ll find a way to get it done. And that’s what it comes down to, we’re gong to have to pick ourselves up and be ready to roll.” Gimenez and Rodrigues were named the Capital Athletic League coach and player of the year this season, and not by accident. However, when comparing the quarterback’s numbers with a year ago, his statistics actually decreased. Why? Not because his talents went down – nothing of the kind – but because the talent of his teammate’s went up. The team no longer was on his shoulders. In Whitney’s last seven games, the offense scored seven more points a game than it did in 2010. But more significantly, the defense held opponents to 10 fewer points per game over that same period. That means the average difference between offense and defense increased to 17 points. Cut that in half with the loss of Jake, and the team still wins by a touchdown. It goes without saying this year’s Wildcats are a much better club than last year, when it lost to Del Oro in the playoffs, 26-9; ironically, 17 points. And I’ll list some reasons: Graves, Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick, Thaddeus Cox, Cody Johnsrud, Greg Holm, Ian Bamsey, JT Hirsch, Sean O’Brien, Jordan Powell, Trever Sitch, Aaron Froidevaux, and Tanner Hughes. Why those guys? Well, they just happen to be named all league in the CAL. And I must also mention two others, Kyle McCray and Lionel Urena. McCray is just a sophomore, but he quarterbacked the junior varsity to the league championship this season, and Urena has become a serious threat as a field-goal kicker. Can the wounded Wildcats beat Del Oro – who knows? But if they continue to play as the champions they are, it could be a game to remember. I believe the eventual winner will go on to be the Sac-Joaquin Section champs. As for Jake Rodrigues, he’s a warrior and will go on to bigger and better things. And there is one more thing; nobody will be cheering louder for the Wildcats this Friday than No. 7, Jake Rodrigues.