“It was a great year,” said Deer Valley Athletic Director Tim Rhyan. “Not just because of the wins and losses necessarily. The athletes were very easy to deal with. They were leaders on campus and set the tone for the student body on how well they are respected by the students. Setting goals for the team carries over to the campus. We have 3,000 kids – that’s a huge campus. You need students who will buy into the system in a positive manner. That success (in sports) carries over.”
The school’s Senior Male Athlete of the Year was Kristoff Williams, who quarterbacked the football team to an undefeated season, was an outstanding track athlete and played baseball and basketball while maintaining an A-minus grade average. He’s received a football scholarship to Washington State.
“Just an outstanding individual,” said Rhyan. “He was a great all-around athlete. He decided to concentrate on football because of the complexity of the quarterback position. He also received an award from the National Football Foundation as Academic Football Player of the Year for Contra Costa County, which is outstanding. His dad is in the Army, and (Williams) missed the banquet for the award because his dad was being shipped to Iraq. We are real proud of him. He’s realizing he has some great opportunities and is capitalizing and is willing to give back.”
The Senior Female Athlete of the Year was Chizoba Okodogbe. The daughter of a Nigerian Olympic track athlete, she took second in the state in the 400 meters. That turned out to be a minor disappointment, however, because for a long time she had the top time in the state and the nation. She also ran the 200- and 800-meter races and was on the girls 4x400-meter relay that placed at the state meet. She earned a B-plus average and is heading to the University of Oregon on a track scholarship.
Under the leadership of Rich Woods, the football team went undefeated in league play. With the notable exception of Pittsburg, the Wolverines ran over league opponents, outscoring them 191-55. In perhaps the most exciting game of the year, Deer Valley won a 35-33 squeaker over Pittsburg in league action – only to get shut out by the Pirates in the playoffs.
Eleven Deer Valley teams winning league championships sounds impressive, and is – but turned out to be one less championship than the school won the previous year. “We felt bad about that, felt we could do more,” said Rhyan.
He felt good, however, about the impressive academic performance of many athletes, belying the image of the dumb jock. “We had over 250 athletes during the season that have over a 3.0 GPA,” said Rhyan. “Above a B average during the season – that’s very impressive. Of the 19 spring teams, freshman, JV and varsity, 15 of them had a GPA above a 3.0 – I’m amazed by that. People don’t hear how many of these kids are outstanding individuals and thriving. We are pretty proud of the fact that 9 of those 11 (championship) teams had a cumulative GPA above 3.0.”
Another outstanding season was turned in by the girls basketball team, which lost only one league game last year and, under Lindsay Wisely’s coaching, lost only four league games in the past five years. Unfortunately, Wisely, who was herself a star athlete at Deer Valley, has decided to coach at Las Positas College next season. “She was 24 when she took over, brand new out of college – just did a fantastic job,” said Rhyan. “We’ll miss her. To lose her is very difficult for us. She’s the first alum we hired to come back to teach.” She’s been replaced by Mark Anger, who will seek to continue her success.
Speaking of successful coaches, Lou Panzella has established both boys and girls volleyball dynasties at the school. Both teams went undefeated for the second year in a row, again winning the league championship. “Coach Panzella year after year does a fantastic job,” said Rhyan.
“One of our major advantages is we still have a lot of coaches on campus that are teachers. There’s a correlation with athletic and academic success. It just makes the campus run smoother.” Volleyball player Kurt Kline was the school’s Senior Academic Athlete of the Year.
Also going undefeated was the girls golf team, one of whose members, Victoria Leon, was the school’s Senior Academic Athlete of the Year. Other league champions were the girls and boys cross-country teams, girls water polo, girls track and boys golf.