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Hart's Connor Wingenroth: Deep in tradition

Connor Wingenroth’s connection to Hart football goes way back

Posted: November 16, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: November 16, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Growing up, Hart junior Connor Wingenroth used to watch Hart football games from the sideline as a ball boy.

 

Connor Wingenroth can still remember everything about the last time he stood on the field for a CIF-Southern Section championship game victory as the Hart High ball boy.

It was a cool night in December 2003, and Wingenroth was surrounded by an Indians’ team led by quarterback Sean Norton, wide receiver Kevin Ciccone and running back Dan Howell as the trio guided Hart to what would be its last CIF title to date, a 25-7 victory over Mission Viejo.

“That night was crazy ...” Wingenroth says. “I tried to get in the team picture behind all the big guys. And I took a picture with the trophy. I remember Dan Howell’s first touchdown run up the middle and how all the Mission Viejo coaches were mad after the game.”

But no matter how big the thrill of watching the Indians compete was for the then-8-year-old ball boy, one thing was always missing — the chance to play.

That’s not such a problem anymore.

Nine years later, the Hart junior is not just playing for the team he grew up watching, he’s starring on it.

And for a school that has gone nine seasons since its last CIF-SS title, the opportunity to bring the Indians back to the top would be a dream come true.

“It would mean so much. I can’t fathom how much it would mean to me to get to a CIF championship,” he says. “It’s been five years since our last appearance and almost 10 since our last win — that’s my dream.”

Regarded by many as the best athlete in the Foothill League, Wingenroth has shown an even more important quality than pure skill this season — adaptability.

Last season, Wingenroth split time at quarterback before ultimately winning the job over then-senior Cory Mayes.

During his sophomore campaign, the dual-threat athlete threw for 1,739 yards and 14 touchdowns to just eight interceptions. He was also the team’s second-leading rusher with 637 yards and 10 touchdowns and he caught a touchdown, as well.

This season, though, after the graduation of running back Dylan Edwards, the team had a decision to make — start Wingenroth at quarterback, or move him to the open running back position and promote sophomore Brady White to the quarterback spot.

Hart chose to get both players in the lineup, moving Wingenroth to running back.

“He had a good attitude. I know it disappointed him a great deal. He wanted to be the quarterback,” says Hart head coach Mike Herrington. “But we talked and he understood we needed him at running back. He has done a great job there. I know he would love being the full-time quarterback, but like I said, he’s done well. We use him in a situation where he’s being inserted at quarterback and has done a great job and we’re looking in the playoffs for bigger and better things.”

As it has for most of the season, with Hart spending six total weeks atop the CIF-SS Northern Division poll, Herrington’s decision was again proven right last Friday during Hart’s 48-6 CIF-SS Northern Division first-round victory over Arroyo Grande.

The quarterback-turned-running back showcased just how good he can be, scoring four touchdowns in four different ways.

Wingenroth opened up the scoring with a 76-yard touchdown reception off a screen pass. He then ran untouched 30 yards for the Indians’ second score.

Couple those feats with a 24-yard touchdown pass and a 65-yard punt-return touchdown to cap things off, and you get just a taste of how talented Wingenroth can be.

“Not too many guys can do that. And he’s come in and can do all those things for us, which is a great weapon,” Herrington says. “He’s just an intelligent young man and well liked by all his peers and by all the coaches. He is the kind of kid you love to coach and the thing is, we will have him one more year.”

Wingenroth’s return is something Herrington is looking forward to — but it’s likely something the rest of the Foothill League fears.

As good as Wingenroth has been in his two seasons of varsity football, Herrington doesn’t think he’s come close to his potential.

“I think he can improve a great deal. He has a chance to, at the running back position, turn some college coaches’ heads,” Herrington says. “I believe he will get bigger, stronger and he’s going to learn from film how he can be better at running back and at defensive back.”

That process will continue tonight, when Hart hosts Palos Verdes at College of the Canyons at 7 p.m. in the second round of the CIF-SS Northern Division playoffs.

The game is a rematch of last year’s dramatic 15-14 Hart win in the first round as Hart converted a two-point conversion with seconds left to win.

“(That experience) is going to be a big factor,” Wingenroth says. “It’s almost a rivalry, even though we only played one time.”

And if Hart can get past the Sea Kings on Friday, it could find itself face to face with Valencia in the semifinals and a possible matchup with Canyon in the finals.

“That would be the best feeling if we can get there,” Wingenroth says. “I can’t imagine how pumped up we would be for those games.”

The prospect of playing Canyon brings back another memory Wingenroth has from his old ball boy days — a 21-13 loss to Canyon in the 2005 CIF-Southern Section Division II title game. Bring that game up and Wingenroth can’t help but complain about the referees.

It doesn’t matter that he was still five years away from stepping foot on Hart’s campus as a student — Indians’ football is simply who he is.

“It’s my whole life. Everyday I’m here, even when football is over we come back,” he says. “I don’t know what I’d do without football. I would never go to another school.”

While he would love to avenge that 2005 loss to Canyon, he’ll take any opponent if it means getting Hart back to a championship level and etching his name next to the Hart greats he grew up idolizing.

“(Herrington’s) step son is a ball boy now. It’s weird how I was that boy looking up to those players. It’s trippy to think I used to be that kid. It’s weird. I remember (the players) were giant men,” Wingenroth says. “I don’t feel tall … But they look to us the same as I did to Sean.”


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