Ryan Lingle, walking with a pronounced limp, was the last Cardinal Newman player to leave the field that day. He and the Cardinals had come within a play or two of springing one of the biggest upsets in the recent history of California high school football, and as he entered an emotionally wounded locker room, the quarterback was blindsided by the knowledge that this would be his last high school game.
Though Lingle didn't realize it at the time, the finality was more dramatic than that. He would never throw a football again in any game, for any team, at any level.
“That one still stings a little bit,” Lingle, 25, said earlier this week. “I didn't think that would be my last game I ever played on a football field. That was kind of a bitter taste it left, that close to winning.”
Lingle's left tackle in the 2006 Division 3 state championship game, Al Netter, is on the San Francisco 49ers' practice squad. His Oaks Christian counterpart, quarterback Jimmy Clausen, is with the Carolina Panthers (though currently on the team's injured reserve). Lingle, meanwhile, lives a modest life in Santa Rosa, working as a personal trainer at BreakThrough Fitness on Sonoma Highway, working out at the Aftershock Volleyball Club and keeping an eye out for coaching opportunities.
With the North Coast Section playoffs set to resume again tonight, Lingle admits there are moments when he wonders where his right arm could have taken him had it not broken down at the most inopportune time. Otherwise, he seems perfectly content with his life's path. And he looks back on the 2006 season fondly.
Player follows coach
Lingle grew up in Sebastopol and thought he would play for Piner High, because that's where local quarterback guru Paul Cronin was coaching. But Cronin took the job at Cardinal Newman as Lingle graduated eighth grade, and player followed coach to the private school.
It was a mutually beneficial relationship. Lingle started at quarterback as a junior and senior, and passed for a total of 5,067 yards and 52 touchdowns over the two seasons. The Cardinals won NCS titles both years, and in 2006 they did more. The California Interscholastic Federation rekindled state championship games that year, and the CIF selected Newman to represent Northern California in Division 3.