This year will bring change for the Deer Valley High School football team.
For the first time in 11 years, the Wolverines won’t be led by Head Coach Rich Woods, who guided the team to undefeated league seasons in 2006 and 2009 and to the North Coast Section semifinals in 2013. First-time Varsity Head Coach Robert Hubbard takes over the program in 2015, and during preseason camps it didn’t take him long to realize the Wolverines, who struggled in 2014, are stocked with talent.
“There is so much potential at Deer Valley,” said Hubbard. “Potential means you haven’t done anything yet, but a lot of the team last year was really, really young and a lot of the issues that they were dealing with were kind of outside of football.”
Hubbard, who will be in his second year of teaching at Deer Valley, previously spent five years as an assistant coach at Northgate High School in Concord. On the gridiron, he was an all-state running back at Diablo Valley College, before amassing 1,715 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns in 2005 and 2006 for the University of Nevada. He’ll inherit a team that started 4-1 in 2014, then limped to an 0-5 finish, going winless in league play. But, with talent returning on both sides of the ball, and a tougher non-league schedule awaiting the Wolverines to prep them for grueling Bay Valley Athletic League (BVAL) play, Hubbard believes the team is on its way up in 2015.
Key Returners: At this point, Hubbard believes he’ll return six starters on offense and six on defense. Starting quarterback Devin Gould, a junior, and 2014 all-league second-team running back Rai-Shyan Alexander, who rushed for 803 yards and nine touchdowns last season, return to anchor the team’s offense. Protecting Gould and creating holes for Alexander will be key returning offensive linemen Bosah Osakwe, Troy Decuir, Jamaar Hardy and Latu Toetuu, who was a member of the all-league second team last season. Osakwe has been a standout so far, Hubbard said, and Decuir enters the season having been a varsity starter for the past three seasons.
“With three to four offensive linemen returning, and the starting running back and quarterback returning, that is a great thing to build around,” Hubbard said. The Wolverines’ offense will be bolstered by the return of starting wide receiver Elijah Womack, who had five receptions for 93 yards in four games last season. Decuir, Osakwe and Toetuu can also play along the defensive line, but Hubbard said he’d like one or two of them to just play on one side of the ball. Linebacker Brandon Faatalale, who had 25 tackles in six games last season, is expected to anchor the defense.
Key Newcomers: The dawn of a new season means opportunities aplenty for players to steal the spotlight. Among the candidates for the Wolverines is junior Adrian Dolo, who is having a nice summer as a cornerback and wide receiver. Dolo played sparingly last season, but did record six tackles. Joining him will be Telvin Haines, who played cornerback, running back and a little slot receiver for the squad last season, and has been excelling during the summer, Hubbard said. Defensive back and wide receiver Jalen Threatt, who has shown great speed and coverage ability, is also expected to emerge as a key player for the Wolverines. Fellow wide receiver and defensive back Ashontee Bonhomme will also be an impact player for the squad, Hubbard said.
Game to Watch: Aug. 28 vs. Granada.
Riding a five-game losing streak dating back to last season, the Wolverines will be anxious to hit the field in 2015. Their matchup against a 2014 playoff team in the Matadors will set the tone for the rest of the season. The Wolverines open league play Oct. 9 against Liberty, and will also attempt to win back the Mayor’s Cup in their battle with cross-town rival Antioch on Oct. 30.
Outlook: In time, Hubbard hopes he can return the squad to its perennial status as a league championship contender. For now, he says the team’s success this season will be dictated by its line play up front and its ability to play defense.
“If that offensive line can make life easy on our running back and quarterback, who are both quality kids, we could have a really successful season,” he said. “Same with defense. If we can slow some of these really talented kids … (and) teams down, we could be really, really successful.”
The squad will face a much-tougher, nonleague schedule this season, with the addition of Granada, Campolindo and Pitman.
Campolindo is the reigning division III state champion, while Granada reached the second round of the North Coast Section playoffs last year, and Pittman was eliminated in the first round of the San Joaquin Section playoffs. Hubbard hopes the early challenges, which also include an immensely talented Concord squad and new-look College Park team, will prepare his unit for the rigors of week-to-week play against talented BVAL competition.
“I think our nonleague schedule is pretty solid,” Hubbard said. “Last year’s nonleague schedule wasn’t challenging enough for them, and it didn’t prepare them enough for the season. I think this one is a little more challenging. It should prepare us for league, which is tough.”