Four of five Deer Valley High School all-league players from last season’s 4-6 squad have graduated, and now a host of mostly inexperienced returners and promising newcomers will work to push the Wolverines into the future this season.
The squad, which last year picked up its first Bay Valley Athletic League win since 2013 en route to finishing its league slate 1-4, will need to replace its starting quarterback (Joshua Scott), leading rusher (Patrick Robinson), top receiver (Robinson) and best tackler (Logan Fontaine) in 2019, and plenty of candidates have stepped forward.
“They have a lot of potential, but very little playing experience,” said head coach Robert Hubbard.
Senior Willie Williams, who saw action as running back last season, and newcomer Pacifica Tumanuvao may be in a battle to start at quarterback, after previous starter Scott graduated in the spring.
Hubbard said Williams is an explosive player with the ability to make throws all over the field, while the 6-foot, 225-pound, nimble Tumanuvao has a world of potential and could ultimately find himself at tight end, running back, linebacker or on the defensive line.
“He could be a real special player for us,” said Hubbard, who described Tumanuvao as “huge” and as a player who “can really, really move.”
Senior Larin Hamlin (six carries for 82 yards in his only varsity game last season) appears set to become the team’s starting running back, replacing the graduated Robinson — an all-league player and the team’s leading rusher, who racked up 2,037 yards on the ground in three varsity seasons.
The team’s eventual quarterback and Hamlin will both rely on what Hubbard describes as a very inexperienced offensive line, comprising all-league senior Jacob Caguyong, returning senior Kyair Stewart, returning junior Keion Venson along with several undisclosed newcomers.
Returning junior Reggie Hill (12 catches for 144 yards and two touchdowns last year) will join forces with senior James Terrell Knaules (six receptions for 169 yards and two touchdowns in eight games last season) and newcomer Jaloni Washington — a senior — to lead the Wolverines’ receiving corps.
Washington looked especially impressive during the off-season, Hubbard said.
The Wolverines’ defense will also take on a different look this season, following the graduation of all-league offensive and defensive lineman King Matu, all-league linebacker Fontaine and the talented Scott, who also played defensive back.
Caguyong, Stewart and Venson figure to anchor the defensive line as two-way players, while senior Kobe Decuir will lead the linebacking core, and Hill, Knaules, Washington and senior David Lockett (who’s appeared in a handful of varsity games) will hold down the secondary.
Deer Valley’s non-league schedule features four non-Division I playoff teams from a year ago, including North Coast Section Division II squads American Canyon and Campolindo, the Sac-Joaquin Section’s Division IV Wood High (Vacaville) and North Coast Section Division 4 Kennedy. American Canyon, Wood and Kennedy all reached the second round of their respective playoffs last season, while Campolindo reached the semifinals.
The Wolverines will also clash with North Coast Section Division I foe Dublin in non-league play. The Gaels finished 4-6 last season and missed out on the playoffs.
Deer Valley opens league play at 7 p.m. on Sept. 27 at powerhouse Pittsburg.
“I am really fortunate that a lot of the players who are coming in inexperienced have a world of potential,” Hubbard said. “They really, really do. If they can live up to that potential, make some of these big plays, bounce back when the plays aren’t so big and stay healthy, we’ll be fine this season.”