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Del Oro capitalizes on opportunities for 37-7 victory over Rocklin

Mistakes, turnovers, and penalties cost Thunder
By: Jim Linsdau Placer Herald Sports Editor
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ROCKLIN _ Rocklin High’s football team appeared they would make a game of it in the Second Annual Battle for the Shield, but Del Oro had other plans. After taking a 21-0 lead into the intermission, the Golden Eagles came out strong in the third period to complete a 37-7 win in the Sierra Foothill League opener for both clubs, Friday. The Thunder club held their own against the Golden Eagles in the first quarter, but mistakes and turnovers kept the home club out of the end zone, and offered the visitors too many opportunities. Two interceptions, one by Russell Smith in the first quarter led to a score, and Austin Soldano picked off a Daniel Kniffin pass in stanza two to set up the Eagles’ second score. Then a “home run” punt off the foot of Rocklin’s Jeff Clark allowed Brandon Monroe to return the ball deep into Thunder territory. On Del Oro’s second play from scrimmage, Bobby Heatherington hit Smith with a 31-yard scoring aerial with 20 seconds remaining in the half. Rocklin never threatened after that. “Del Oro has a very good football team,” said Rocklin head coach Greg Benzel. “We would have had to have been perfect tonight, and they would have to have been off a little bit for us to win this football game.” Still, Benzel was pleased with the gutsy performance his club put forth. Had the mistakes and penalties not killed a couple Rocklin drives, Del Oro might not have had the 21-0 cushion they enjoyed at halftime. He said his defense got some early stops against the Eagles that took away their momentum, but ultimately the turnovers killed the Thunders’ hopes. Although an interception by Stevin Cisneros of a Heatherington pass in the third quarter offered a spark of hope, it gave Rocklin the ball inside their own 10-yard line. The Del Oro defense then took command and ended up tackling Thunder running back Marvin Gardner in the end zone for a safety. After a squib kick put the ball at Rocklin’s 49, the Eagles used just six plays to score another touchdown. After Del Oro’s kick off, the Thunder worked their way to the Eagles’ 40-yard line. But another turnover would put the lights out in Rocklin. Kniffin went to the air to try and get a quick score, but his pass came up short. The Eagles’ Brandon Monroe picked off the pass and went 80 yards for Del Oro’s final touchdown. “(We) made some big plays and got some big turnovers, so we got some momentum,” said Del Oro head coach Casey Taylor. “I can’t say enough. The kids came to play and our defense did a great job.” Rocklin avoided the shutout on a penalty-aided sustained drive to end the third quarter. Completing the drive in the fourth quarter, Kniffin found Matt Laughrea in the end zone on a fourth-and-ten. That touchdown put the silver-and-blue on the board with 10:30 on the clock. However, the Eagles were able to use up precious time behind the running of Monroe and Smith. “I thought what broke it open was our line was just pushing them real hard,” said Monroe of the game’s momentum change. “Our team just tried to pound them and it opened up and everything went our way.” At 5-1, Del Oro will be looking for things to go their way when they travel to Grass Valley to play Nevada Union next week. The Miners are coming off two losses, one to SFL foe Granite Bay, Friday night. Rocklin (3-3) will head for Roseville, where the Tigers are coming off a 44-21 win over Woodcreek. Del Oro 37, Rocklin 7 Del Oro 7 14 16 0 37 Rocklin 0 0 0 7 7 RUSHING Del Oro – R Smith 6-36, T Huber 1-1, B Monroe 13-73, 1, N O’Sullivan 6-55, A Howerton 1-(-2), N Leveron 1-0, S Westlake 1-7, G Eagles 27-165, 1. Rocklin – M Gardner 17-29, R Kendall 10-23, D Kniffin 4-24, Thunder 31-76. PASSING Del Oro – B Heatherington 8-12, 2, 1. Rocklin – D Kniffin 7-20, 93, 1, 3. RECEIVING Del Oro – R Smith 3-74, 1, A Bertrando 1-15, D Thomas 2-3-1, T Huber 2-70-1. Rocklin – A Howenstine 2-26, D Giampaoli 2-23, M Laughrea 3-45, 1.