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Sonora tops Whitney 20-7 in DIV playoffs

By: Russ Edmondson The Placer Herald
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Whitney High had its football season come to a close in Sonora on Friday night. The Sonora Wildcats beat the Whitney Wildcats 20-7 in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section, Division IV playoffs. Sonora is a No. 4 seed in DIV while Whitney was a No. 5. There are 16 teams in the DIV playoffs, broken up into two, eight-team brackets. Sonora will now play at Lincoln, the Pioneer Valley League champion, in the second round at 7 p.m. next Friday. Whitney, which battled injuries to starters all season, finished 7-4. Sonora is 9-2 heading into the game at Lincoln (11-0). Lincoln beat Livingston 49-15 on Friday night. Six turnovers, two in the first half and four in the second half, were the primary problem for Whitney on Friday night. “Our defense played well but our offense just shot ourselves in the foot – penalties and turnovers,” Whitney head coach Mike Gimenez said. In the first quarter, Whitney’s Kyle Dilorenzo was intercepted inside the Sonora 20-yard-line. The Sonora Wildcats then drove down the field and scored to go up 7-0. This 7-0 lead held up until the half. Whitney senior quarterback Josh Ladas, who was a game-time decision because of a high ankle sprain, came in at quarterback in the third quarter and stayed in for the rest of the game. Sophomore starting quarterback Jake Rodrigues didn’t dress for the game because of an ankle injury. Sonora went up 14-0 in the third quarter but Whitney sophomore running back Isaiah Moore scored on a four-yard run to make it 14-7 later in the third. Whitney began two drives inside Sonora territory in the final quarter, but it didn’t translate into any points. One drive started at the 49 and the other began at the 40. One drive ended with a punt and the other came to a close with an interception inside the 10. The interception came with about seven minutes to go in the game. Sonora extended its lead to 21-7 when it returned an interception for a touchdown with less than two minutes left in the contest. Whitney junior Shawn Azam ran 16 times for 117 yards while senior receiver Brendan McCue caught two balls for 31 yards. Whitney’s defensive line (Jon Cardenas, Steven Nelson, Jon Pulsipher, Alex Chernyy, Michael Nordmann) was very strong throughout the game. Gimenez has been a head coach at the varsity level since 1994 (at Woodland from 1994-2004) but he had never seen as many injuries as he witnessed this year. Or seen anything close. “I think as far as kids being out for multiple games, we (coaches) were talking and we have been coaching together for over 10 years, and I think this is more than the last 10 years combined,” Gimenez said. “It was staggering and it was almost, at times, you are thinking, was somebody playing a joke on us? You take a kid like Kyle (Dilorenzo) and he goes and plays quarterback for basically four games and we won two of them. He’s playing a position that is really hard and he wasn’t even planning on playing it. Lots of guys played different positions (because of injuries). And that speaks to the character of the kids that are willing to help the program. It was definitely a year where you can learn to battle and our kids did an awesome job.” Whitney was a very young team with much of the core returning next season. “We had a bunch of young kids come up and play for us and do a great job,” Gimenez said. “And the last time we did that it worked out really well for our program. Jake Snyder and Taylor Irwin and those guys, juniors getting to the section championship game (in 2007) and then as seniors we won it (2008). Hopefully we are headed in that direction and I believe we are.” Last year’s team went 13-0 to win the section but Gimenez was very proud of what this year’s team accomplished also. “To battle the adversity and the injuries we had and still be 7-3 (in the regular season),” he said. “Our two league losses were to Placer by nine and to Lincoln by seven and Lincoln scored with 30 seconds left. It’s not like we had a bad year and didn’t play well. We had a shot of being able to beat the really good teams. “We’ve gone to the playoffs three years in a row and that is huge. The expectation for the kids in our program is to win a section championship every year because we’ve done it and been there twice. Our seniors carried on that tradition of going to the playoffs and that’s important.”