Thursday, December 11, 2008
Selfless Laguna Hills puts team, winning first
QB/DB safety Robert Refsnyder will lead the Hawks in their title game against Mayfair.
There is only one statistic the Laguna Hills football players care about.
"Really, the only stat that we care about," Hawks quarterback/free safety Robert Refsnyder said, "is if we have more points than they do at the end of the game."
The Hawks have been perfect in that statistic all season, limiting teams to 8.7 points per game en route to a 12-0 record.
Top-seeded Laguna Hills has earned its first trip to the finals since 1997 and will take on third-seeded Mayfair of Lakewood in the CIF-SS Southern Division final tonight at 7:30 at Cerritos College.
"It's a very unselfish team," Hawks coach Bruce Ingalls said. "Nobody is concerned about stats. Everybody is concerned about what can we do to help this team win.
"If that means I have to block every down, well, so be it. I'll do that. It's not about how many passes I caught, how many touchdowns I've made or what position I'm playing. It's about what's best for this football team. That's the approach these kids take. It's a pleasure to be able to coach them."
Ingalls said he has had teams that have bought into the team concept he preaches over the years, but none have done so as whole-heartedly as this group. And Refsnyder has been the unquestioned leader with his actions on and off the field.
"I think the thing that separates him aside from some people is the fact that he is such a fierce competitor," Ingalls said. "You'd never know that he had a baseball scholarship because he plays football like he could care less about that baseball scholarship.
"He wants to do well and he wants to do well for his teammates. He doesn't want to let them down, so he plays extremely hard."
Refsnyder was the Pacific Coast League player of the year last season as a defensive back and wide receiver. Quarterback Ryan Wertenberger was graduating and the Hawks had no prospects to replace him. The coaches approached Refsnyder, who grew up playing soccer, basketball, baseball, football and gymnastics, with the idea of playing quarterback this season.
They believed whatever Refsnyder lacked in experience he could make up for with his raw athleticism.
"I had never played quarterback until this year," said Refsnyder, who is one of the top shortstops in the county with a scholarship to Arizona.
Refsnyder's statistics haven't been spectacular, but Ingalls said he is great at managing the Hawks' run-oriented offense and is very good at running the option and play-action plays. And he is always a threat to tuck the ball and take off for a huge run.
"Throwing the ball, a baseball, is fluid for me, but football I had to get used to it," Refsnyder said. "I was throwing some ugly balls at the beginning of the year. They have progressively gotten better. You can't really change a baseball throw into a football throw. I've done my best. The coaches have really helped me. I give all the credit to the coaches.
"We're a running team first of all. Our offensive line, every game, they just establish the run. Then those linebackers come up and the play-action is wide open for me. I mean, having all those threats with A.J. Martin and Shawn Tucker on the outside, Derek Browning and Matt Giovinazzo in the backfield ... it makes my job a whole lot easier. I think that's how we've been so successful this year. Those linemen, they give me so much time ... I feel I have a lot of time to think back there."
Refsnyder said he has been on teams in the past that had cliques or players who cared about their own statistics over the success of the team. He said that's what makes this year's group so special. Everybody wants to see his teammate next to him excel.
There are no superstars on the team. A different guy seems to step up every game.
"All our guys take pride in that," Refsnyder said. "It's just fun to come to practice and hang out with them. I know some guys on the team wouldn't play football if it weren't for some of the teammates on the team. That's how enjoyable it is.
"On game days when somebody makes a tackle, everybody comes around to celebrate with him because they care about him. They want to see him excel and just do great on the field."
This will be the final football game for Refsnyder and many of his teammates when they step onto the field tonight.
"There is nothing like a Friday night game for football under the lights," Refsnyder said. "I mean, high school baseball and high school football are polar opposites. With the way this season is going, it's been so fun with all my guys.
"If we can just pull out one more for our community and our city and our school and all our fans, that would just be icing on the cake for this year. I know my guys will come out hard and no matter what happens I'll be proud of them. I hope our community is proud of all the hard work our guys have put in."