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Rocklin offense powered by pair of returners

Cummings, Laughrea to lead Thunder against Oak Ridge on the road next week
By: Russ Edmondson The Placer Herald
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Rocklin High varsity football head coach Greg Benzel doesn’t want to get ahead of himself but he is very fired up about the upcoming season. “I think there is a sense of energy and a sense of excitement within our guys and that is really good,” said Benzel, whose squad went 4-6 overall and 2-3 in the Sierra Foothill League a year ago. “Whenever you make these predictions it’s tough because we haven’t played anybody yet but I will say that our guys are very confident and excited.” Rocklin will host Casa Roble for a scrimmage at 6 p.m. today and also play in a scrimmage at Sheldon in Elk Grove on Saturday. The first official game is at Oak Ridge at 7:15 p.m. on Sept. 11. The rest of Rocklin’s challenging non-league schedule includes games against Nevada Union, Las Lomas, Skyline of Oakland and Napa. Rocklin will open Sierra Foothill League play against visiting Woodcreek on Oct. 15. Rocklin hasn’t made the playoffs since 2005 (11-2, overall, 6-1 in the SFL) when it reached the Sac-Joaquin Section, Division II championship game against Del Oro (lost 18-15). The Thunder went 4-6 and 1-4 in 2006 and 8-2 and 3-2 in 2007. Senior running back Jackson Cummings and junior quarterback Jimmy Laughrea, both returning starters, will be a major part of the Thunder offense. Cummings dealt with a groin injury for much of last season after getting off to a very fast start. Laughrea became the starting quarterback after teammate Tiger Sorenson was injured in the second game a year ago. Laughrea finished the season 100-for-203 passing for 1522 yards, 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Cummings, who will also return kicks, rushed 94 times for 685 yards and 10 touchdowns before sitting out several games with the groin injury. “Very key — both of those guys,” Benzel said. “Jackson had a great summer and he’s had no issues with the groin whatsoever — he’s free to be the athlete that he is.” Benzel has been impressed by the progress that Laughrea has made. “We’re excited about the physical tools that he has and he’s shown a lot of growth in terms of understanding the offense and what’s expected of him. And he’s getting better in that regard,” Benzel said of his 6-2, 180-pound quarterback. “And he can make something happen at any time and we’re continuing to challenge him in running the offense and being a leader.” Senior Vince Gibbs returns to the offensive line as does senior Brian McNay. Senior receiver Holden Huff, all-SFL last year, broke his leg in the spring and is battling back. Senior teammates Sorenson, Kyle Garvella and Scott Polaske will see lots of time at receiver as well. Seniors Sean Moore and Daniel Lessard will start at linebacker and Benzel is expecting big things from this duo. Both will also see time at running back and Lessard and Cummings are Rocklin’s co-captains. Senior Trevor Cooper returns to the defensive line and senior Garth Keffer returns as a starter at cornerback. “We have a very positive feeling within our coaching staff and among our guys and the campus is kind of buzzing a little bit,” Benzel said.