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Mr. Carter’s neighborhood

There’s no guarantee the Berkeley High School football team will win any more games in 2007 than it did in past seasons. There’s no guarantee the Yellow Jackets will compete for the Alameda Contra Costa Athletic League title next season, or whatever league they wind up in for 2008 and beyond.

But things are about to get a lot more interesting at 1980 Allston Way, now that Alonzo Carter has been hired as Berkeley’s head football coach.

Carter brings with him an impressive record (57-34-2) compiled during eight seasons as McClymonds’ head coach. During that time the Warriors also won four Oakland Athletic League titles and three Silver Bowl championships, including ones in 2005 and 2006.

But perhaps Carter’s most impressive accomplishment is getting over 60 student-athletes to sign NCAA Division I letters of intent since becoming involved in high school sports in 1993. That, above everything else, is what likely got him the job at Berkeley.

Still, Carter wants to win. And one gets the feeling that the Yellow Jackets have been a sleeping giant for some time.

After going 10-0 in 2002, Berkeley has been a combined 24-15 with one North Coast Section playoff appearance. Not bad. But perhaps not as good as you might expect considering the school has about 1,500 boys to draw from for a varsity football team.

We saw what happened in 2006 when a large school gets its act together. Deer Valley had just one winning season between 2001 and 2005, but in coach Rich Woods’ second season, the Wolverines went 10-0 in the regular season and captured the Bay Valley Athletic League title for the first time.

Now it looks like Deer Valley will be a league title contender, and perhaps an NCS playoff team, for some time. After a transition period, Berkeley could become the same kind of program.

And, if Carter has anything to say about it, a program that sends a healthy number of kids to Division I schools every year.

Look out everyone. Things are about to get a lot more interesting at 1980 Allston Way.

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High school coaching series

I’d like to thank the readers who have been in touch with me for their positive feedback regarding the series Chace Bryson and I are doing about high school coaching, “Coaching Amid the Chaos.” It is obvious that a lot pf people care about high school sports in the East Bay, from the people who enter coaching, to the athletes that play them and to the parents who offer their time and their financial and moral support to the programs. For any team or department to have success, all three have to be on the same page.

We’d also like to thank the coaches and athletic directors who told their stories to us with such candor and sincerity. Without them being so forthcoming, a series like this would have been more challenging. Hopefully, we’ve done the subject justice.

From the people who have just started their varsity coaching careers, to the ones who have been doing it for a generation, one things holds true. They’re not doing it for the money or the notoriety. They do it because they love it. It wouldn’t be possible otherwise.

Thanks again.

-Curtis Pashelka

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Coaching series

We are running a three-part series on high school coaches. The series started Monday with stories on coaches who are starting out. Tuesday’s package will be on coaches and what they endure to stay at it, and Wednesday we will close with coaches who got out. What’s surprised me is the candor of which coaches spoke of their respective hardships, especially in dealing with parents. It used to be whenever a coach told a reporter about anything in that realm it was prefaced by “this is off the record.” These days dissatisfaction with a coach is much more out in the open and thus many coaches are more willing to talk about these instances. Just checking the Times discussion boards or any other such boards demonstrates that. Another example of how life has changed in the cyber-era.

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Keeping up with the Joneses

Monte Vista soccer player Courtney Jones has landed in this week’s Sports Illustrated.

A junior forward, Jones is among the quickest players in the East Bay and is good for about a goal a game, no matter what defense she plays.

The article, which is in the SI Players/High School section, notes how she came back from a near-catastrophic ankle injury her freshman year.

She is currently playing through a couple of cracked ribs and a torn ligament she received at a soccer tournament in Southern California in late December. I asked her about it and she just laughed. She pointed out her dad played through injuries his entire pro football career. Her dad? Brent Jones, former 49ers tight end. In the article, the former Pro Bowler says he had injuries “to my shoulders, ankles, and even my ACL.”

What the heck, dad kept playing; daughter should, too. Courtney and Brent were also featured in a StudentSports article in December Jones has verbally committed to the University of North Carolina, arguable the top women’s collegiate soccer program in the country.

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Richmond High football

Today marks the beginning of a new era at Richmond High School as Petaluma police officer John Antonio was named as the Oilers’ new head football coach. Antonio served as the offensive coordinator at St. Vincent, a Class A school in Petaluma, for the last two years and was head coach at Calistoga High before that.

All I can say is why not? There is nowhere to go but up for the Oilers, who haven’t been able to finish either of the last two seasons due to a lack of healthy, eligible, or interested players. A new outlook may be what Richmond needs to turn things around and Antonio, who is 29 years old, seems to have plenty of energy for taking on the challenge.

In the larger scheme of things, this seems to be another step in what Principal Orlando Ramos has dubbed “The New Richmond High School.” I, for one, am anxious to see what a new perspective can bring to the table for this troubled program.

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Sick

Sick.

That was the feeling that swept over me when my colleague, Robert Jordan, gave me the news that Richmond High School senior Elijah Holman was ending his high school basketball career yesterday evening.

Holman has been a stand-up kid since the beginning of the school year as he has sought reinstatement from the California Interscholastic Federation, seeking a chance to make something of his high school career after pushing an official and serving a year-long suspension. As it was described to me by Richmond principal Orlando Ramos, Elijah just wanted to be a kid for one more semester.

On Saturday night, the world in which Elijah has lived as a kid ran smack dab into the harsh reality that is Richmond’s West Cutting Blvd. Two centimeters more and the bullet that grazed Holman would have hit his spine, ending his career and possibly his life. Thoughts of Terrance Kelly, the standout De La Salle football player whose life was tragically ended in a 2004 shooting, suddenly came back to life.

I am thankful that Elijah is alive and well and I agree wholeheartedly with his decision to move out of Richmond for good. And why wouldn’t I? The young man has a long and full life ahead of him, with thoughts of Indiana University, one of the most storied college basketball programs in the country, ahead of him. There is nothing more for him in Richmond.

Sometimes I wonder if the city of Richmond — the city that I grew up in — gets a bad rap, what with it’s well documented struggles with crime. With the news that Elijah Holman has chosen to end his high school basketball career and stop attending classes at Richmond High, that reputation feels spot on to me. But please don’t think Holman and Kelly are the only ones this affects. This isn’t something that affects athletes and high-profile community members. The streets of Richmond are forcing kids to grow up a lot faster than they should have to. Richmond has abandoned its children.

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Whistles galore turn hoops into snoozefests

High school basketball games, considering they have quarters just eight minutes long, should finish in a breeze. Well, at least one would think so. Often, just the opposite seems to happen. Numerous whistles — even for what appears the slightest player contact – - bog the game down with stoppages upon stoppages. For those in the stands hoping to witness action-packed, exciting basketball, a game instead becomes an ordeal.

What gives? I’m not sure any scientific study has been made, but empirical evidence holds that high school basketball games have more foul calls than those at other levels of the sport. Some possible theories to contemplate: First, are high school basketball players, by virtue of their youth, yet-to-be-fully-developed skills and relative inexperience, more prone to committing fouls? Or does the problem lie with officials who err on the side of caution and call anything and everything to keep tempers from escalating and avoid problems (such as fights, injuries and even potential lawsuits)? Or is it a combination of both? Whatever the cause, the constant whistles get to be a drag in the most literal sense as a game coughs and sputters en route to the merciful sound of the final buzzer.

High school basketball can be a great game. It was the theme of the movie, “Hoosiers,” and serves as a backdrop in the popular Disney kids’ fare, “High School Musical.” In real-life experience, basketball arguably is California’s No. 1 high school sport, having had state title games for both boys and girls well before football renewed its act. But a game has to jell. And for high school basketball to thrive and grow, it must flow. But whistle after whistle after whistle for even the most inane “violations” leads to some stagnant basketball.

If you’ll excuse me now, the officials have just called the 43rd foul of this game, and now I’ve got to get back to . . . Zzzzzzzzzz…….

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A little wrestling history

For a few weeks now, Las Lomas wrestler Jason Welch has been rumored to be moving up to 171 pounds to wrestle the likes of defending state champion Louis Bland of Central Catholic-Modesto HS and Justin Danz of Ponderosa HS.

Well today was the day that Welch undertook that challenge, wrestling at 171 pounds at the Foothill-Sacramento ASICS tournament. In the semifinals, who should Welch meet but Bland himself. Now, thanks to a coach from Placer High School, the match was uploaded to the internet and I just have to say thank you to said coach. That said, Welch proved himself yet again, defeating Bland 21-11 in an unbelivable display of wrestling.

Welch got Danz in the final and, according to thecaliforniawrestler.com’s message board, defeated him 8-3. Keep in mind that’s an unofficial result but if it’s true, it’s an incredible accomplishment. Is there anything this young man can’t do?

Speaking of incredible accomplishments, Campolindo’s Nikko Triggas again shared the dais with Welch, taking home the 119-pound title. Freedom’s David Prado took second at 125 pounds. Congratulations to all area wrestlers who fared well.

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DLS Martin Luther King Classic

So, yesterday was another well-run MLK Classic from the folks over at De La Salle and this year’s venue was Haas Pavilion at Cal. The basketball was excellent and they seemed to have everything covered as usual.

More than the action on the court though, I was impressed by a Spartan football player. Defensive back Lonnie Wishom took center court before the DLS/Skyline game and read a piece on Martin Luther King and the importance of the holiday that we all celebrated yesterday. I say bravo to Wishom and the DLS staff for placing the emphasis where it deserved to be: on the holiday and on the man who did so much for American history.

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Second look

All Richmond High School boys basketbal player Eli Holman wanted was a second chance. Later today (Tuesday), Holman just might get that shot.

Holman, who was suspended by the North Coast Section last season for pushing an official, is expected to hear from  California Interscholastic Federation executive director Marie Ishida today on whether he will get his chance to make amends for that night on Dec. 3, 2005.

Holman was originally denied reinstatement by the CIF for failing to meet the requirements set forth in an appeals hearing last January. Richmond High officials later admitted that Holman had completed the tasks set forth but submitted incorrect paperwork to the CIF, which denied Holman on Dec. 2, 2006.

Last week, Richmond High officials held a press conference to admit the mistake and to ask the CIF to take a second look at Holman’s reinstatement with the corrected paperwork.

Oilers assistant coach Lonnie Coleman said that he had heard from the CIF on Monday and that they would issue a decision Tuesday afternoon.

Stay tuned to and we’ll let you know as soon as the news becomes available.