Rocklin readies to roll in 2012 football campaign

Thunder just reloading
By: Jim Linsdau/Placer Herald Sports
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Although Rocklin High School football will be looking to improve on its 3-7 season in 2011, the Thunder is going to have to do it with some new faces on the squad. Virtually half of last year’s lineup were handed their diplomas this spring. However, Coach Greg Benzel said he concentrates on what he has and not those that have departed. Returning is quarterback Daniel Kniffin but gone is wide receiver Matt Laughrea. Laughrea ranked third in the Sierra Foothill League compiling 822 receiving yards. “I think this year we have a little bit more of a balanced attack in terms of passing; we can go to multiple guys,” Benzel said. “So, with Daniel (Kniffin) being able to throw it … and some guys that can catch it, we feel pretty confident in passing.” He returns Dominic “Dom” Giampaoli from last year’s receiving corps. Although No. 80 was used sparingly in 2011, he had a big game against Ponderosa. He hauled in five aerials for 111 yards; one for a gain of 45 yards. Giampaoli was also used at running back and had an 11-yard carry against the Bruins to help Rocklin win the contest 31-27. Also coming back are Cory Burmester and tight end Jack Wittwer. Burmester pulled down 25 passes and scored two touchdowns last season. Giampaoli said this season’s receiving corps could put up some sizeable numbers in 2012. He denied he was the heir apparent to fill Laughrea’s position and cited others on the squad who should do equally well. “I think we’ve got a lot of guys that know more and we’re more on the same page with the quarterback,” Giampaoli said. When we get to Pleasant Grove it’s going to be all out air force.” Kniffin will also have some support this year from junior quarterback Logan Webb. Webb threw for almost 1,100 yards last season in leading the Thunder junior varsity to an 8-2 season. Benzel is high on Kniffin because of the work the signal-caller put in during the offseason; however, he said it would be imperative the Thunder develop its running game. Brandon Crotts has taken his diploma and departed but Raymon Kendall returns. Kendall got the ball 79 times and rushed for nearly 4 ½ yards per carry. Although Wittwer wasn’t on the receiving end of many passes, he should help to shore up a rather inexperienced offensive line. “Our center of attention has been on both our offensive and defensive line. (On offense) we return one starter, Sam Woods,” Benzel said. “We return the other Sam Woods on D,” Benzel added with a grin. Of course, there is only one Sam Woods on the team. Rocklin will have to rely on a lot of talent moving up from the junior varsity squad. The JV lost only to Del Oro and Granite Bay in 2011. And lining up next to all those juniors didn’t seem to concern Woods that much. “We have a lot more speed. These kids, obviously juniors, play with a ton of aggressiveness,” Woods said. “As a whole, I would rather have someone like that than someone who knows what they’re doing but is not aggressive.” Benzel likened this year’s Thunder squad to a surgical unit. He said he really doesn’t have the size to go toe-to-toe in a heavyweight matchup but would do that when necessary. He indicated the club would look for opportunities and “perform surgery” to gain the advantage. Benzel recognizes Nevada Union, Granite Bay, and Del Oro are going to be difficult to beat but said his club should show better in the SFL this year. However, Benzel said he doesn’t give a lot of thought as to what the other teams bring to the table. “We’ve got tremendous staff here. We don’t really think a ton about other schools and what they do and how they do it,” Benzel said. “We just worry about getting our guys ready to play. “We’re kind of reloading, let’s just put it that way.” Rocklin High School 2012 Thunder Football Schedule Aug. 24 Pleasant Grove 7:15 p.m. Aug. 31 Oak Ridge 7:15 p.m. Sept. 7 Whitney Quarry Bowl TBA Sept. 14 at Del Campo 7:15 p.m. Sept. 21 Inderkum 7:30 p.m. Sept. 28 No Game Oct. 5 at Nevada Union 7:30 p.m. Oct. 12 Granite Bay 7:30 p.m. Oct. 19 at Woodcreek 7:30 p.m. Oct. 26 Roseville 7:30 p.m. Nov. 2 at Del Oro Battle for the Badge 7:30 p.m.