The tallest Trojan is also the best in the Empire

On a talented 2017 Petaluma High School Trojan football team, Luke Haggard is easy to spot.

He’s the tall one.

Standing at 6 feet, 6 inches tall, Haggard, a 17-year-old senior and All-Empire lineman, helped lead the Trojans to an 8-2 record during a season that had its share of distractions.

The team persevered and had big moments, including an eye-popping win over Montgomery to start the season and an Egg Bowl victory. Through it all, Haggard made plays.

Haggard, the son of Carrie and Eric Haggard, grew up in Petaluma, and he started playing football for the Petaluma Panthers in the eighth grade. But his passion for the game was already formed by that time.

“I grew up with it,” Haggard said. “I watched football with my dad, so playing it just came naturally.”

Haggard was an All-Empire player last season, and Petaluma head coach Rick Krist said he was even better in 2017.

“I thought he was the best offensive and defensive lineman in our league last year, and I think it’s the same thing this year,” Krist said. “Physically, he’s a lot better this year.”

Haggard aspires to be a college athlete and is weighing options between football and his second sport, rugby. Haggard plays rugby for a club team at Elsie Allen high school in Santa Rosa.

“It’s more what school I want to go to, versus the sport I’m playing,” Haggard said, noting that football is his favorite sport, but he enjoys rugby more than he thought he would.

Haggard has what it takes to play college football, according to Krist.

“I think he could play football for sure at a high level,” Krist said. “There are teams that have called, that are interested.”

Haggard’s talent helped Petaluma get through a season with unique distractions; the team played its home games at Casa Grande while Ellison Field underwent renovations, and the Trojans lost a week of football because of the North Bay fires.

Haggard said experience, especially among the senior class, and year-round training kept the team close.

“It started in the summer. A lot of people were really committed this year,” said Haggard, who’s a team captain. “We were always around each other, so it felt like that kept us together. That’s how we got through playing at an away field constantly, even through the fires.”

Haggard’s favorite moments from a memorable 2017 season include a sack on the first play of the game vs. Sonoma, and, of course, Petaluma’s Egg Bowl win over Casa Grande.

In fact, that game counts as one more distraction, albeit a welcome one.

“That’s the only game most of us were thinking about before football even started,” Haggard said. “And that week, it was a really intense week of practice. The day before the game, everyone was just really ready.”

Haggard was especially ready. He forced a fumble on Casa Grande’s first play from scrimmage and recovered the ball at the Gauchos’ 13-yard line. Three plays later, the Trojans scored the first touchdown of the game.

“It gets you pumped up when (big plays) happen,” Haggard said. “It gets your blood flowing. At that point, I feel like I could do anything.”

It’s not clear if Haggard will play football or rugby at the next level, but his Petaluma football legacy, along with the legacy of his fellow seniors, has been written. A team without a home, they churned out yards, points and victories. They won the first Egg Bowl in seven years.

And Luke Haggard, Petaluma’s tallest Trojan, was in the thick of it all.

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