Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

Antioch High grad Shamawn Wright shines through adversity

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

Shamawn Wright Antioch High grad Shamawn Wright shines through adversityBy Luke Johnson

When Shamawn Wright graduated from Antioch High School in 2011, he became the first alum to play collegiate Division 1 football in eight years. Now after his redshirt sophomore season at UC Davis, he has earned All-Conference honors at cornerback. 

But the road to Wright’s success was not so smooth. By the time he was 15 years old, and the only sophomore on Antioch High’s varsity football team, he had been homeless for over half his life. Wright had been bouncing around homeless shelters since he was seven years old, after his biological father ran out on his family.

Growing up in Oakland, Wright was a witness to some horrible sights. When he was 10 years old, he saw his cousin shot to death in front of his own eyes.

Wright moved to the East Bay to another shelter about a year later, and shortly after, his mother was sent to jail for child abuse. Wright and his two brothers were under child protective services, and did not see their mother for two years.

Toward the end of his sophomore year in high school, Wright and his mother were not getting along, and she kicked him out of the group home where they were staying. He then called Antioch High’s defensive back coach Wilson Pica to ask for some help. Pica told Wright he could stay at his house for a coupe of days. But gradually, days turned into weeks, and weeks turned months, and Wright has been living there ever since.

When I first walked in there, it felt like home. I was happy I had my own room, bed [and] food every night,” Wright said. “I wasn’t homeless anymore. I just didn’t want to leave.”

This past season at UC Davis, Wright helped the Aggies become the best defense in the Big Sky Conference, only allowing 200 passing yards per game. He was also 24th in the nation in kickoff returns.

Wright is determined to reach the NFL one day, and hopes to become the first Antioch High alum to do so since 1999.

This article first appeared in the February, 2014 issue of the Antioch Herald.

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Antioch High baseball coaches on administrative leave following allegations of inappropriate conduct

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

By Luke Johnson

Antioch High principal Louie Rocha placed five baseball coaches, including seven-year varsity head coach Ben Juarez, on administrative leave last Wednesday, while the Antioch Unified School District investigates allegations of “inappropriate conduct.”

First-year Antioch High P.E. teacher and junior varsity head coach Carlos Gonzales has been appointed as interim varsity coach.

I received written statements by a number of people about some of the serious allegations that were being made,” Rocha said. “Based on that, we decided to place the coaches on administrative leave.”

The allegations are about a situation that happened during last baseball season, and AUSD’s Superintendant of Human Resources Keith Rogenski is investigating the matter.

JasonSparkyBray Tweet Antioch High baseball coaches on administrative leave following allegations of inappropriate conductOne returning Antioch High Senior varsity and All-BVAL baseball player posted a message on Twitter about the issue.

“Tbh [To be honest] those coaches have taught me everything I know for the last 6 years, and these ‘allegations’ being brought up are completely false,” said Jason “Sparky” Bray.

Juarez’s wife took to Facebook to express her thoughts on the matter.

These allegations are false and are all brought about by a crazy parent whose son was being threatened to be cut from the team because he was suspended for sexual harassment and threatening to blow up the school,” Kristen Hammer Juarez stated in a post.

Kristen Hammer Juarez FB comment Antioch High baseball coaches on administrative leave following allegations of inappropriate conduct

In the meantime, teachers at Antioch High with baseball experience along with alum and former World Series Champion Aaron Miles have stepped up as assistant coaches.

The Antioch community is just so supportive,” Gonzales said. “For an ex-Major Leaguer to come back to his alma mater and help out and give his time, just to have him on the field, is a joy and a blessing.”

Rocha and Gonzales would not elaborate on the details, only saying the matter is under investigation.

In Juarez’s seven-year tenure at Antioch High he has posted a 61-106 record, without any playoff appearances or a single season with a winning record.

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Deer Valley High football team in hot contention, Antioch continues to struggle

Friday, October 25th, 2013

By Luke Johnson

It is now close to the end of the 2013-14 football season and Deer Valley High School is shining bright with a 7-0 record, while injuries have plagued Antioch High School to 1-6 entering for the season.

In their cross-town game, last Friday night, the Deer Valley Wolverines outscored the Antioch Panthers 49-7.

Wolverine Head Coach Rich Woods is on pace to lead his team to its third undefeated season in an eight-year span. He has been the most prosperous football coach at Deer Valley with a 67-28 regular season record since his inaugural year in 2004. Along with his impressive winning percentage, Woods has also coached the first two players from Deer Valley to reach the NFL.

We’ve just had some good players and some good assistant coaches,” Woods explained for the reason behind his success. “I’ve surround myself with some good people, and I’ve been real fortunate.”

One of the key components this season for Deer Valley has been quarterback Nsimba Webster. Not only is Webster leading the team through the air with nine passing touchdowns without an interception, but is the Wolverines’ top rusher with 107 yards per game and 12 touchdowns coming on the ground.

Webster has been contacted by multiple Division-I colleges, but has not completely committed to football quite yet. He also has proven his talents on the hardwood, and had a starting role on the record-breaking basketball team last school year. When it is all said and done, Webster wants to leave behind a legacy that marks him as Deer Valley’s top competitor.

I just wanna be the best athlete ever at Deer Valley… And make a name for myself,“ Webster said.

The Antioch Panther’s football program was once a dominate force in the Bay Area, but has been in a drought since the 1990’s. Head Coach John Lucido is on a mission to revive the team, and has already made two postseason appearances in his three-year tenure.

This year the squad has been halted by wounded players and a small cast of seniors. The roster consists of only 12 seniors with 31 underclassmen that include five sophomores and one freshman. That one freshman is running back and linebacker Najee Harris, who transferred from a high school in Seattle, WA approximately a month ago. After playing for frosh and junior varsity, Harris will be making his varsity debut in Friday night’s match up at Liberty High School.

The Bay Valley Athletic League is as tough as it has ever been this year with a variety of teams posing major threats. Pittsburg High is ranked among the top 100 teams in the state, with running back Harris Ross tearing up the field for 254.2 rushing yards per game and 17 touchdowns. Meanwhile Freedom High possesses one of the nation’s most touted recruits, running back Joe Mixon, who has attained nearly 50 Division-I scholarship offers.

There have always been top athletes in our league,” Lucido said.

But, Deer Valley dominated Freedom 35-7.

Antioch plays at the winless Heritage High, tonight, while 4-3 Liberty will visit Deer Valley.

For more information on local high school sports, visit www.maxpreps.com/search/school.aspx

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Antioch Babe Ruth All-Stars win four straight to reign supreme

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013
Babe Ruth champions Antioch Babe Ruth All Stars win four straight to reign supreme

Babe Ruth All Star A-Team champions

By Luke Johnson

Antioch Babe Ruth’s 15-year-old All-Star A-Team became NorCal-District 3 Tournament Champions after defeating the Northern Solano’s All-Stars, 9-4, on Monday, July 1, in a late night contest at Antioch Babe Ruth Fields.

Antioch fell short the first game of the tournament, in a double-elimination format, to its bitter rival Vallejo in a fierce battle that consisted of four lead changes. This forced Antioch into a situation where the team had to four straight games in the next two days in order to capture the district title.

I think it was a good shock for them knowing they are not untouchable or unstoppable,” Antioch Assistant Coach Garret Tamborski said. “It definitely brought them back to earth, and I think it actually helped us out in the long run.”

Antioch’s pitching prevailed in those fours games with Nasser Issa pitching a complete game shut out in the team’s second meeting with Vallejo. Issa spent 11 total innings on the mound in the tournament only allowing two earned runs, while his teammate Salvador Lopez went 13 innings with four earned runs.

It was a great team effort, [with] great defense,” Issa said. “I’m one of those players that like to get everybody up, ready to play, ready score and ready to win.”

In game two Antioch’s A-Team faced Antioch’s B-Team. With Lopez on the mound, the A-Team only need six innings before defeating the B-Team in a 10-run mercy rule. Later that day Antioch took on Vallejo in a grudge match where Issa threw his shut out, only allowing three hits in seven innings.

Since day one I knew we were deep in pitching,” Antioch Manager A.J. McNally said. “I put them in the positions they had to play, and they are the ones that made the plays.”

Antioch eased past Northern Solano in game four, 9-5, to ensure an all-or-nothing game 5. But due to field arrangements, the game was delayed an hour and a half.

Vallejo and Northern Solano’s 13-year-old All-Stars had an ongoing game on Burke Field with the sun setting. That caused them to switch to Regoli Field due to it is the only Antioch Babe Ruth park with lights.

Once the deciding game finally began between the 15-year-olds All-Stars, Antioch again easily succeeded Northern Solano finishing them off, 9-4, to clinch the NorCal-District 3 trophy in a bout that went until 11:24 in the evening.

This means everything,” Tamborski said. “After losing the first game, coming back, [and] winning four straight. [I’m] just so proud of the kids and all the work they put in.”

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Antioch Little League Senior Girls softball team in the Western Regionals, seek community’s help – today!

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

The Senior Girls Softball Team from Antioch Little League has made it to the Western Regionals. They and and their families need your help. The players and families are responsible for their own hotel and travel expenses to the tournament. The league has received a number of monetary donations and is a great start of getting everyone there.

Do you know of any companies or if you are interested in helping the families and players, donations have to be made to the league by this afternoon. (Tuesday, July 22)

They were featured on KTVU Channel 2 news, which you can watch by clicking here.

There’s a link on the league’s Pay Pal Account on their website at www.antiochlittleleague.com or feel free to contact Dennis Felix at questions@antiochlittleleague.com

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Antioch Sports Legends Alumni to hold Second Annual Hall of Fame fast-pitch softball clinic in August

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

SportsLegendslogo 300x256 Antioch Sports Legends Alumni to hold Second Annual Hall of Fame fast pitch softball clinic in AugustThe Antioch Sports Legends Alumni is again gathering a roster of Hall of Fame softball players and outstanding coachesto conduct the Second Annual Hall of Fame Fast-Pitch Softball Clinic Saturday, August 17th at the Antioch Babe Ruth League complex in Antioch, 902 Auto Center Drive.

The clinic will draw from Antioch’s own great players, including Hall of Famers Debbie Nelson and Rachelle Manning. They will join a host of other former Hall of Fame players and college and high school coaches from 10 am to 3 pm to provide instruction, demonstration and practice in all areas of softball play.

The clinic is only $30 and is designed for players 8 to 18 years of age. Players will receive expert instruction in hitting, pitching, catching and defensive skills for the recreational and travel ball/high school player. In addition to instruction, players will receive a barbecue hot dog lunch, a clinic t-shirt and a tour of the Antioch Sports Legends Museum, located next door to the Babe Ruth fields.

The Antioch Sports Legends Alumni are committed to providing opportunities for local youth to receiveFast pitch softball Antioch Sports Legends Alumni to hold Second Annual Hall of Fame fast pitch softball clinic in August the very best athletic instruction. Last year’s clinic was a great success. This is the Legends Alumni’s fourth sports clinic in the past year. In addition to the Fast-Pitch Softball clinic last August, the Alumni hosted a baseball coaches’ clinic in December and a Hall of Fame Baseball clinic for the area youth in May.

Don’t miss out on this great opportunity to learn from the best! Players may pre-register online at allamericansportscademy.net. For more information, contact Debbie Nelson at (209) 612-8984 or email her at dnelson@allamericansportsacademy.net.

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DV boys volleyball team falls one win shy of NorCal throne

Friday, May 31st, 2013
DV goes up for the block 1024x682 DV boys volleyball team falls one win shy of NorCal throne

DV goes up for the block in their game against Archbishop Mitty. by Ronald Rivera

By Luke Johnson

After dominating the competition all season long, the Deer Valley High School boys’ volleyball team came up short Saturday at Dublin High School for the CIF NorCal Division I regional final against Archbishop Mitty High School.

This was Deer Valley’s most successful season as the team went 42-2 and the deepest into the postseason in school history.

Nationally top ranked basketball recruit Marcus Lee had the most dominating presence on the floor. The 6-foot-10 high-flying senior soared across the court averaging 3.6 kills and a block per set.

Even with Lee’s impressive pedigree the biggest leader for the Wolverines was sophomore Jordan Ewert. Head Coach Lou Panzella believes there is no better sophomore in the state than Ewert.

Without a doubt!” Lee exclaimed when he heard about Panzella’s statement. “He’s a sophomore and he pushes me in practice, and I’m the one that’s supposed to be pushing everybody.”

Ewert averaged 4.8 kills and 1.9 digs per set. The 6-foot-4 sophomore is also one of the most experienced players on the squad despite being an underclassman.

Here is what Ewert had to say about playing with Lee, “When we go to tournaments everyone wants to take pictures with him… He’s not this big scary guy, he’s a nice little teddy bear. He’s funny and I love being around him. I’m gonna miss him next year.”

Following the final whistle Saturday the Wolverines came together to embrace each other in one big huddle. That is when the tears began to shed, and not a single player could hold it in.

The team’s motto is “together forever.”

It is not cliché to say these players have a relationship that goes beyond teammates, but a connection much stronger than that.

This loss is way above basketball’s loss,” Lee said. “These are all of my best friends, this has been pretty much my family.”

DV Boys Volleyball team 1024x682 DV boys volleyball team falls one win shy of NorCal throne

Deer Valley Boys 2013 Varsity volleyball team. by Ronald Rivera

Lee along with Jeff Brown and Muhammed Ali also took Deer Valley’s basketball team further than it has ever gone before earlier in the school year, before losing in the CIF NorCal Championship as well.

I’m leaving [behind] a legacy of champions,” Lee said. “As long as you work hard, you are going to get somewhere. We are not some random school in Antioch that nobody knows of, but a place where you can be the best that you can be as long as you work.”

Panzella says Lee is the ultimate team player and that he would give up all the glory to help the team win. He emphasizes that when Lee is sitting down during his rotation on the bench that he is always cheering louder than anyone in the gym.

This has been a fabulous season,” Panzella said. “I couldn’t be happier because of this group of players that we have… I’m fortunate that they allow me to come to the games and watch. They make me look smart.”

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Deer Valley Baseball team are champs despite roller coaster season

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

By Luke Johnson

After discipline problems nearly squandered their postseason dreams, Deer Valley High School baseball went on a 7-1 run to claim their second consecutive Bay Valley Athletic League Championship.

The Wolverines ended up losing 7-1 in a second round playoff game, on Friday, May 24, to the power house Granada High School Matadors from Livermore, who are currently ranked fourth in the nation. But in order for the Wolverines reach this point they had to buckle up for a bumpy roller coaster ride.

According to a variety of sources, four players were caught mid-season posting pictures, on the social network Instagram, of themselves using alcohol or marijuana. According to one parent, three players were suspended for alcohol use and one for marijuana, violating team rules. Two seniors and two sophomores were suspended a combined total of 30 games as punishment from the administration and the athletic program.

According to sources, who chose to remain anonymous, some of the parents of players who were upset their sons weren’t being played enough, complained about the other players’ photos, which resulted in the suspensions.

Among those four athletes was one of Deer Valley’s premier players along with another being an everyday starter batting over .300. The absence of those key competitors wreaked havoc on the Wolverines as they lost five straight and found themselves at fourth place in the BVAL.

My reaction was just complete shock,” Pitcher Tyler Vistalli said. “Kids always say ‘it’s never going to happen to me.’ And we never think it can happen to us… [But] no matter how slim that chance is it happened to us, and for us to overcome it was just huge.”

Vistalli was also a tremendous contributor to the Wolverines early in the season before suffering an elbow injury in early April that has sidelined him since. The ace was sporting a 5-0 record and a 0.88 ERA with 38 strike outs in 31 2/3 innings. Vistalli was unable to play in the playoffs.

This is the first year for Dan Peters as Deer Valley’s head coach, and only the second in school history after former Head Coach Dennis Luquet’s departure to Diablo Valley College. It was quite a roller coaster ride for Peters. After jumping to a 7-0 start the team began to have attitude issues.

We had some players become selfish and jealous of other players’ success,” Peter said. “When we had a little adversity the worst came out in a player or two, [but] not all. Some players [complained] about things like, ‘Why am I hitting sixth [and] not fourth?’ A player or two were actually hoping that a teammate at their own position would do poorly in a game so that it would make them look better.”

During the ensuing five-game slide Peters gathered the coaches and players for a serious team meeting to set things straight. He instilled in the the minds of the players’ that they needed to encourage one another to be successful.

We do not ever play against Deer Valley, we play against the other teams and against the game of baseball itself,” Peters told the varsity squad.

The Deer Valley coaching staff emphasized those kind of things over and over, and it appears to have paid off.

When asked how the four players involved in the scandal could have allowed this whole ordeal to happen, utility player Devante Boyd said, “That’s a tough one.”

Boyd was originally thought to be part of the situation, but further investigation discovered that he had nothing to do with it.

Deer Valley finished with a 7-3 conference and 16-8 overall record. Coincidentally Liberty High School and Heritage High School were equal in both facets to make it a three-way tie in the BVAL standings. But Deer Valley was the successor in the tie-breaker due its victories over the other teams in their most recent match ups.

Having kids work hard in practice and games, showing much improvement along with winning the league made it a very rewarding season,” Peters said. “We have many strong, young players coming up that should keep the program going strong. We can build upon the work ethic established this season.”

Deer Valley had four players selected All-BVAL First Team for the 2013 campaign. Utility player Jordan Gough batted .469 with 26 RBI’s, while center fielder Marcus Wise set a school record with 46 stolen bases capturing 26 of them this season without being caught. With great defense in the infield Tony Self also batted .393, and pitcher Spencer Vincent went 3-2 spotting a 1.50 ERA.

Allen Payton contributed to this article.

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