If you talk to current players in the Bay Valley Athletic League (BVAL), it would become easy to forget that Deer Valley was a league powerhouse all the way through the 2013 season, when the Wolverines went 11-2, including a 4-1 mark in league play.
Since then, however, it has been a rough ride for a program, which went undefeated in league play in both 2006 and 2009.
Deer Valley looks to break a three-year winless streak in the BVAL, having gone 0-15 over the past three league campaigns. Third-year head coach Robert Hubbard saw progress with a very young team last season and is looking for a breakthrough in 2017 with a team full of veteran leaders and plenty of talent at key positions.
After winning just one game in 2016, the bar is set significantly higher entering this fall.
“We were really young last year and played a real tough schedule,” Hubbard said. “We should be much improved this season.”
Returning players: He may be undersized for the position, but multitalented senior Dior Walker leads a deep cast of returners for the Wolverines as the team’s returning quarterback, although Hubbard has more in store for his team captain this season.
As a three-sport athlete, Walker brings plenty of competitive experience to the table and will likely be used on both sides of the ball in his final year of high school ball.
“He’s the best on the team in whatever sport he plays and is a great teammate,” Hubbard said. “He was our quarterback last year, because he was our best at the position. But he can play anywhere, and we will showcase more of his skills this year.”
Another key returner for Deer Valley is utility athlete Evan Bittle. Bittle never left the field last year and will play safety, linebacker and receiver this year for the Wolverines. He will be Walker’s top target in the passing game, which is complemented in the backfield by the return of junior running back Patrick Robinson, who not only emerged on the field as a sophomore but also in the classroom with a 4.0 GPA.
Most exciting, however, is the return of four starting offensive linemen. Senior Donovan Picazo anchors the group and is joined again by AJ Matu, King Matu and Daniel Lockette.
“Our offensive line was young last year, so I’m very excited to run behind them this year,” Robinson said. “Defenses can’t focus on either myself or Dior, because we can both get it done.”
Another key returner for the Wolverines is defensive leader Josh Scott, who earned all-league status as a sophomore in the secondary last year. This season, Hubbard plans on Scott not only being a leader at cornerback, but also to be a playmaker at receiver.
New players: With many of the starters this season back from last year and a thin group coming up from the junior varsity, newcomers expected to contribute right away only include a few names at this point.
One of those players is two-way lineman Timothy Harrison, a 6-foot-2, 280-pound junior who can be the missing piece along with the four previously mentioned returners. Another is tight end and linebacker Jordan Pringle, who is expected to help right away at both positions in his junior season.
Overview: Deer Valley has a couple early tests on the nonleague schedule, opening with a rebuilt Monte Vista team at home before later facing a pair of defending league champions in Kennedy-Richmond and Clayton Valley.
After that comes the challenge of ending the 15-game losing streak in BVAL play. The closest game last year was a 31-21 loss to Liberty, but that was with a young team. The potential for improvement is there this season, although there are certainly some key things that must happen in order to achieve those goals.
“We have a lot of returners, but not many numbers coming up from the junior varsity, so our overall numbers will be low,” Hubbard said. “We won’t have many subs, so we must stay healthy to have a real shot at competing in our talented league.”
Wolverines 2017 SCHEDULE
August 25, 7:00 PM vs. Monte Vista
September 1, 7:00 PM @ Northgate
September 8, 7:00 PM vs. Castlemont
September 15, 7:00 PM vs. Kennedy
September 22, 7:00 PM @ Clayton Valley Charter
October 6, 7:00 PM vs. Liberty*
October 13, 7:00 PM @ Pittsburg*
October 20, 7:00 PM vs. Freedom*
October 27, 7:00 PM @ Antioch*
November 3, 7:00 PM vs. Heritage*