Mike Gimenez appreciates the good company of his Whitney High School football players, but he doesn’t want to stand next to them on the sideline during games.
That has been the painful theme for the longtime Wildcats coach, whose tradition-rich program has endured a rash of injuries, stalling a season of promise. In resembling a triage unit with myriad ailments and ice packs, Whitney stumbled to an 0-6 start, finally breaking through with a 41-6 victory over Oakmont on Friday night.
Gimenez has been flanked by as many as 12 starters on the sideline, all in uniform and all bearing glum faces.
“We’ve had it all, the worst year of injuries – collarbones, broken ankles, knee injuries,” Gimenez said. “I know injuries are part of the game, but wow. We’d go to practice and say, ‘OK, we’ve got Plan F in place.”
Gimenez said the defeats humbled him and a program that has made the playoffs seven successive seasons, including the 11-2 campaign of 2007 and the 13-0 Sac-Joaquin Section championship team of 2008 with league titles in 2011 and 2013. Gimenez said he has been impressed with the resolve of his young team, and even with how he’s handled things.
“I’ve been a head coach for 20 years and I can deal with this better now than when I was younger,” Gimenez said with a laugh. “I would’ve gone crazy years ago with this. I’m still borderline crazy, though.
“We started a lot of underclassmen and we knew we didn’t have a lot of depth, and if there was a year we needed to stay healthy, it was this one.”
Whitney lost a star in the making in quarterback Hunter Rodrigues in the second game with a broken collarbone. The Wildcats are down to their fourth quarterback now as Tyrik Ceasar led the way Friday with three touchdown passes. Gimenez said his team could return some of the injured starters by Friday.
“We’ve hung in there,” Gimenez said. “I kept challenging the guys, reminding them that football mirrors life. Not everything will go your way. Don’t quit. Keep working harder, and they have, and that’s all you can ask for. They’ve given us great effort.”
Ford injury update – In the season of the battered quarterback, Jake Ford endured a frightening moment Friday against Elk Grove. The Pleasant Grove junior took a helmet-to-helmet shot in a 42-14 loss and was laid out, though not knocked out. For precautionary measures, Ford was taken to UC Davis Medical Center for evaluation.
“All is clear,” Ford said Saturday morning, in good spirits. “I’m hoping to get back on the field with my team as soon as possible.”
Area quarterbacks lost for the season include Montel Aaron of Antelope (concussion), Micah Gunter of Valley Christian (broken leg) and Max O’Rourke of Rocklin (broken leg). All are expected to make full recoveries.
Defensive stand – El Camino beat Casa Roble 9-6 on Friday thanks to defensive stops. Devin Mirkovich had three interceptions and the Eagles snuffed out a fake field-goal attempt as time expired to remain alive in the Capital Athletic League title race. Webster Said-Kamal rushed for 142 yards and Kevin Loheit made a 25-yard field goal for the Eagles.
Frantic finish – Natomas beat West Campus 27-26 on Friday, escaping after a West Campus extra-point attempt hit the upright. The Nighthawks (5-2) ran out the clock to remain in the Golden Empire League title race. Dejon Glover scored the go-ahead touchdown with 6:19 to play for Natomas, which entered the season with a 32-game losing streak.
Sac stopper – Lonny Powell had five sacks on Saturday in No. 12 Sacramento’s 59-0 Metropolitan Conference victory over Valley, giving the Cal-bound senior linebacker 18 1/2 on the season.
“He is hands-down the best defensive player in the section,” Sacramento coach Paul Doherty said.
Also against Valley, Caden Voges passed for 422 yards and six touchdowns.
What can Brown do for you? – Grant quarterback Donovan Brown throws a pretty deep ball – he fired four touchdown passes to beat Franklin earlier this season. He showed Monterey Trail that he also can run, taking off on a 44-yard scoring sprint in the No. 2 Pacers’ 54-29 victory over the No. 9 Mustangs on Friday. The real workhorse was Deshawn Collins, who scored three of his five rushing touchdowns in the third quarter.
Big-picture view – Before the first practice of his team’s second 6-0 start since 1990, Cordova third-year coach Vance Mueller implored players to keep things in perspective.
“We’re in a great league and losses may happen, so if we do lose a game, don’t let it define your season,” Mueller said. “It’s more than one game.”
Cordova will find out what sort of resolve it has after falling hard Friday to Liberty Ranch, 41-0, in Sierra Valley Conference play with No. 17 El Dorado coming for a visit next.
El Dorado beat Rosemont 60-43 on Friday as Tyler Clanin rushed for 287 yards and three touchdowns and Carter Meyers and Talen Van Cleave combined for 21 tackles.
Follow The Bee’s Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.