30Q-2-KICKOFF (No. 19): Heading East

Today, we continue a look at the local leagues by heading over Kirker Pass and dropping into East Contra Costa.

Last year, Deer Valley went undefeated to claim the Bay Valley Athletic League title. Then, in the playoffs, Pittsburg made a run to the North Coast Section Division I  title game, a run that included a win over Deer Valley. Will it again be those two teams at the top, or will another squad step up and challenge in 2010?

This week, I had the opportunity to talk to each and every coach in the BVAL. At this point in the year, everyone’s optimistic but you can definitely tell that each coach expects that there won’t be any “off” weeks in league play this year.

Let’s start with the defending champion Wolverines. As coach Rich Woods described it to me, it’s less a case of rebuilding and more a case of reloading this year. And, it will help that QB Mike Behr is back. Down the stretch last year, with Kristoff Williams banged up a little, I thought DV was very effective when they put the big-armed Behr under center and let him wing it down field for Kristoff. So, I don’t think they’ll suffer much at QB. The Wolverines will need to find a good replacement for RB Brandon Williams, so that could be an issue. Defensively, L B Lamonte Marshall and DL Tavita Taito might be two of the best at their position in the entire area, and usually the Wolverines are a physical force on that side of the ball. I think we’ve definitely reached the point that you can expect to see DV near the top of the standings every year.

Over at Pittsburg, the Pirates are in an enviable position in terms of leadership. QB Julius Mozee has seized the leader’s role, and after the growth he showed last year, I think we can expect huge things from him this year. RB Deon Turner has joined the Pirates, and he’ll be another weapon on offense. Also, don’t ignore OL Ramon Hurtado and TE Richard Renteria, two guys who I thought played really well down the stretch last year. Defensively, this should be the year where Javen Butler steps up and takes the reins for the Pirates. I commented a couple times last year that he showed flashes of being their best defender and that should carry over to this year. It’s going to be tough to beat Pitt this year, as usual.

So, with those two really entrenched at the top, the question becomes what team will make the jump to challenge them. One team I think we can expect to bounce back is Freedom. After going through some growing pains with a young squad last year, the Falcons are never down for very long. They have good building blocks up front in returning OL Matt McKeen and Darrell Greene, good running backs in D’Amora Cooper and Timazray Shepherd, good receivers in Stephen Rodriguez and Darrell Daniels and new blood with sophomore Dante Mayes at QB. I think the Falcons could be back in the mix this year.

Heritage should again be good, led by returning QB Brent Eikanas. The Patriots lose a lot up front, so I’d imagine training camp will be used to find a good base for the offense. Coach Jeff Haagenson told me that so far, the defense has dominated practices. They’ll have to figure out if that means the defense is great or if the offense is behind before they head into the season. I’d expect the Pats to be a team to be reckoned with too.

At Antioch, longtime assistant John Lucido takes over and he’s making some changes. The Panthers will run the same no-huddle spread that Concord runs, so it will be up to returning QB Billy Cloninger to take control on offense and keep the tempo at its optimal level. One thing I didn’t mention in Thursday’s DVAL preview is one of the reasons Concord succeeds is the fact that the offense it runs is so darn hard to scheme for. Antioch is hoping to duplicate that. They have a blue chip DB in Shamawn Wright, and Lucido is high on his new offensive line. One thing the Panthers will be is fast, so if they can match the physicality of the rest of the league, we could see marked improvement.

Liberty rounds out our look at the BVAL, and the Lions also return their starting QB in Devin Parsons. Coach Nate Smith also tells me that they have improved depth in the backfield, which is always a good thing and should help the offense gain consistency this year. RB Shawn Vasquez returns from injury, and Smith is hoping he’ll be a big play threat.

Overall, I expect the BVAL to be improved from last year. The top-tier teams are still there, and I think the rest of the league is better too. I’d expect the BVAL to factor heavily in the NCS Division I playoffs this year.

Ben Enos

  • After reviewing what Ben has to say and from what i’ve heard it looks like Deer Valley will be hard to beat. It seems like the Deer Valley neighborhood has a habit of producing talent year afer year to the Wolvrines benefit.
    Pittsburg with Deon Turner joinning forces at the Pirate den will give them added speed, but will it be enough to stop Deer Valley, plus the preseason Pittsburg is about take on won’t be easy…
    I see the league standing at the end of the season to look like this…

    Deer Valley
    the bottom four will most likely change this out look and none of these teams should be taken for granted…It appears that Hertiage could be in for a long season….Guys what are your thoughts???

  • BVAL Fan

    i agree with the standing ^^^^ above..
    Deer Valley is one of those teams that always have good back up players that seem that experience doesn’t matter… im putting a question mark next to their Qb on his accuracy (Most of the time was put in to throw to Williams on the fade) and their RBs and sweeper needing to be replaced… But dont get me wrong DV should not be an easy game…

    Pittsburg another tough team once again… QB coming back and some special athletes that will fit into the spread offense for Pitt.. Question mark on their offensive line.. heard from different ppl that can be a problem for them… and knowing that they got a transfer student from Mt. Diablo might put them onto the top of league increasing their athleticism

    Freedom can be contention as well for league having either young good talent from the lower levels coming up, to having experienced positions at most of the lineman postions… Dont be fooled by their record last year, having a tough out of league schedule. I hear they have a amazing sophmore Quarterback who has a cannon. But overall they should get pay back from teams that beat them last year.

    Antioch is very interesting story, New head coach with a new system in Relation to Concord’s Offense. Im pretty excited and wanting to see this new offense Luciado brings to the table… they have the good slot receivers to fit in, however antioch is known not to have good sized WRs and undersized… A BIG and i mean BIG Question mark on their O-Line, only returning one lineman.. witch means this can be a rebuilding year for them

    Heritage, Did really good last year but i dont think they will have the same success this year… Loosing the majority of thier Defensive starters at the linebacker positions and lost Majority of thier O-Line.. i think it can go back and forth between antioch and heritage… but probably a rebuilding year at some postions on defense and offense… Good Quarterback and RB coming back this year Krueger Story having a good last year… but kind of not sure if heritage can match up with the Athletes from Freedom, Pittsburg, and Deer Valley.

    Liberty, heard good things about this program getting better. but if they keep on scheduling soft opponents in the out of league games, it shows year after year that League play becomes a nightmare and once again i think they WILL NOT win a league game due to a couple of things…. one of them is the size of their offensive line, only lost one starting linemen… but most of the ones coming back are really undersized no lineman being over six foot tall. The only spots that i can think of not being hurt is the QB and RB positions there quarterback is descent but not mind blowing. I think this team will finish last for another disappointing season

  • Galli and Pitt take the league-hands down.

  • Queer Valley always folds at the end or in the playoffs.

  • Mike

    come on now, twice the Wolverines have made it to semi’s in 06 and 09 and Pitt has dispatched them twice. no need to rub salt in the wound lest they do reach that potential and beat Pitt in NCS play offs.

    I am a fan of Freedom but no expectations is the best way to look at it after a down 2 years cuz while we rebuild, we can upset and shock Antioch and maybe that Little Big Bone game will rival 2006!

  • BVAL Fan

    Freedom was down for two years? i thought one?

  • renegades10

    Freedom made D-1 playoffs in 2008 where they lost a thriller to Foothill and believe they finished second in BVAL that year.

  • BVAL Fan

    Yea your right.. cause i know they were just only bad last year

  • ManDown

    When will the Top 25 teams be posted?

  • s1lverngreen

    I thought I saw the 2nd of the September as the date for players to watch, top 25, etc…

  • BVAL Fan

    well theres something coming out this week about each team around the leagues players to watch etc for each team… they always do it a week before the season starts

  • BVAL Fan

    I hear that Deer Valley is by passing the “league play” and already thinking about playoffs according to THE PRESS… as much as this team might be good as last year.. i still have some questions about their Quarterback.. when he was in they would always have him throw the ball to Williams on the Fade route… this play calling reminds me of people do in madden scrambling with Michael Vick trying to get away from pressure. Its terrible play calling.. who ever calls the plays at Deer Valley dont really disguise them well with their program plays that they run all the way down to the freshman level. Some of the plays and formations dont make sense or dont fit into their program
    For example against Pittsburg they did not run the Sweep Play the whole game or iso or zone out of split backs. I dont understand why they did that, i dont care if pittsburg stops those plays.. they still have to respect the play calling and tradition of the fly sweep. They would also come out in pro style formations like trips, strg right, strg left. And this did not fit into their program how they usually did things…

  • Big Boy

    @ BVAL Fan,

    I agree with what you think about deer valley. Some of their play calling can be pretty bad.. like last year they add this one formation with a double wing look.. it was funny because like you said this did not fit into their system.. you can pretty much say this is not like deer valley… but as i go on.. they by far have one of the biggest Starting o-line in the BVAL but however doesnt mean they are good.. this is how i rate the BVAL lineman

    -Deer Valley- BIG!!!! and strong

    -Freedom- BIG, Experienced Oline returning alot of players

    -Heritage- returning only Two

    -Pittsburg- Heard Bad things about the O line

    -Antioch- Returning one

    -Liberty- NO SIZE All lineman under six feet tall

  • EB Football Coach

    Size is relatively unimportant when it comes to high school o-line play. There are things that I know are more important:
    1. Strength/Size ratio, especially in powerclean. Relative strength is almost always more important than absolute strength. I’d rather have a lineman who is 215 but can clean 250lbs than a 300lbs lineman who also only cleans 250lbs.
    2. Explosion. Can they get off the ball? This relates to my above point. A bigger guy who isn’t as strong is less likely to explode out of a good stance. Explosion can create a solid push at the LOS and provide opportunities to gain yards on the ground.
    3. Technique. This is always significant. The guy who comes off lowest, using leverage, with the correct steps and hand placement will win the majority of the battles.
    4. Toughness. The meanest, most physical, persistent, pain tolerant player is always the most desirable.
    5. Intelligence. Can they think/react/know assignments, adjust to defenses and play mistake free football?

    Give any coach a player with those five qualities and they’ll make a good lineman, regardless of size.
    In fact, take five guys who possess those qualities who are under six feet against five guys who don’t possess those qualities but are 300lbs and those big boys will get an a**whooping.

  • BVAL Fan

    how do you explain Liberty then? that lost all their league games?

  • EB Football Coach

    That’s not causation. Liberty’s losing their league games could be due to any number of issues. In fact, I’m sure it was due to multiple issues.

    Look at Freedom. Their O-line was huge last year, but they still lost 9 of 10.

    What I’m saying is that in high school, size is not necessarily correlative to success.

  • BVAL Fan

    The reason why freedom lost nine games was because everyone they played were NCS qualifiers. I have more respect for them because they wanted to challenge themselves rather than schedule against easy opponents. They are a better team than a 1-9 team. I know what your trying to say and i agree in some areas…

  • Joe

    i think liberty is underestimated.

  • EB Football Coach

    I don’t think they are estimated at all.