It just seemed like a good idea.
Vincent Shinnefield, a quiet, scrawny 150-pound kid from La Habra who hadn't played a down of tackle football, tried out for the freshman team at Mater Dei four years ago just so he could make some friends.
He had no aspirations of stardom. No big college plans. In fact, he didn't even resemble some of the mighty Monarch linemen who have been a big reason for Coach Bruce Rollinson's success.
No, in fact, Shinnefield was just looking for a good time.
What a difference four years make.
Shinnefield is The Times Orange County lineman of the year, the third consecutive Monarch to win the honor. He earned the award over several talented players with his characteristic gritty determination and lots of hard work in a year of remarkable parity among county football players.
A two-way starter, Shinnefield was the go-to, or should we say, go-over guy, at guard for the 14-0 Monarchs, who beat Los Angeles Loyola, 17-10, Saturday for the Division I title. He had an average blocking efficiency rate of 91%, did not allow a sack and had a lot to do with Mater Dei having two rushers who gained more than 1,000 yards.
"On short-yardage situations, or on the goal line, we ran over Vince," Rollinson said.
Shinnefield also played defensive end, where he had 30 unassisted tackles and three sacks. He also participated on most Monarch special teams.
"Vince rarely came off the field," Rollinson said.
There were times in his prep career that it appeared that the 6-foot-1, 255-pound Shinnefield would never get on the field. Mater Dei had two freshman football teams in his first season at the school. Guys such as wide receiver Rod Perry and many of this season's standout players made the red team.
Coaches took one look at Shinnefield and decided he could only fit in on the line somewhere, maybe, and sent him down to the white, or second, team.
"I wasn't fast enough to be a skill player," he said. "I just wanted to make some friends. None of my friends from where I live came to Mater Dei. I figured this was a good way to meet people."
The weight room became a nice place to socialize. Shinnefield, who despite the long commute chose Mater Dei over Servite because several cousins had gone there, spent a lot of time there after his freshman season. When he showed up for the 1994 fall practice he had muscled up to 215 pounds and he made the junior varsity team. When the varsity advanced to the playoffs, Shinnefield got called up. A year later, as a 240-pound junior, he started four varsity games and played on special teams.
Still, Monarch coaches weren't expecting much when practice began this fall, according to first-year offensive line coach Edward Begany.
"When I got here they told me I didn't have a lot to work with on the front line," he said. "Vince is big enough to be a tackle, but he is quick enough to be a pulling guard. I like to put guards on linebackers and he did well in that position."
Begany and others credit Shinnefield's great work ethic as the key to his success.
"He really has developed from his freshman year to now," Monarch wide receiver Rod Perry said. "A lot of it was maturity, growing into his body, but most of it was just plain hard work on his part."
Begany points to the fact that the Monarchs faced a variety of fronts all season and were able to adapt well.
"Five times this year we practiced against what we thought we were going to see and in the games we saw something different," he said. "Everybody tried to go equal up on us to stop our run and when teams do that players have to be flexible.
"He was on the field almost all the time and I wasn't able to talk to him about those changes," Begany continued. "But [his ability to adapt on his own] was one of the main reasons we were successful this season."
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The First Team
Pos. Name School QB Greg Cicero Servite RB Michael Jones Laguna Hills RB Leo Kosi Rancho Alamitos OL Jim Adams El Toro OL Brian Hart Fountain Valley OL Zack LaMonda Servite OL Vince Shinnefield Mater Dei OL Blake Worley Capistrano Valley WR Rod Perry Mater Dei WR Murle Sango El Toro WR Steve Ward Servite K Mike Phillips Los Alamitos
Pos. Name School DL David Coates Servite DL Alfred Giles Fountain Valley DL Brian Sepulveda Mission Viejo DL Stephen Sua Tustin LB Nu Atuatasi Rancho Alamitos LB Charlie Landrigan Capistrano Valley LB Andrew Medley Fountain Valley DB Derald Deason Orange DB John Hefty Aliso Niguel DB Ife Ohalete Los Alamitos DB Jose Rodriguez Anaheim P Matt McRae El Dorado