ANTIOCH -- After back-to-back fourth place finishes in the Bay Valley Athletic League, the Deer Valley High football team is hungry for a return to the top of the league standings.
And with several skill position players back from last season and the addition of some notable transfers, the Wolverines appear to have the necessary ingredients to win their first league crown since 2009. Deer Valley opens the season Sept. 6 against Rodriguez-Fairfield.
"We have a senior-dominated group and that's helped," Deer Valley coach Rich Woods said about his team's preparation for this year. "Our quarterback is a three-year starter, and his brother is playing well. ... We have some things going."
Woods is referring to quarterback Nsimba Webster and his brother, wide receiver and defensive back Nzuzi Webster.
The two provided some electrifying moments in 2012, as Nzuzi caught 20 passes for 405 yards and six touchdowns and made 71 tackles and had seven interceptions on defense, where he was a first-team all-BVAL selection. Nsimba threw for 25 touchdowns over 2,300 yards, and also rushed for 706 yards and nine touchdowns.
"He's an elusive guy, and a lot of our plays depend on his movement," Woods said of Nsimba. "Our routes, he'd step up in the pocket and throw early and if he throws late, he'd sprint, step and throw, and find guys open.
"That's really by design. We work on that in practice. He's gotten smarter and he's not delivering the ball to the wrong place."
Nsimba Wesbter also plays basketball and competes in track, making the time Woods and his staff has to spend with him that much more valuable.
"He's very competitive and one of our captains, and he's the guy whose going to lead us as far as we can get," Woods said. "We have our eye on a championship."
Deer Valley raced out to a 6-1 start last season, which included wins over College Park and San Leandro and a close loss to Sac-Joaquin Section Division II champion Folsom. But the Wolverines stmbled down the stretch, losing their last three BVAL games. They were eliminated in the first round of the North Coast Section Division I playoffs by Foothill.
Deer Valley had a hole to fill in the backfield after the graduation of Shane Pooler, who rushed for 1,043 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012. Enter Robert Taylor, a transfer from Castro Valley, who was a first-team all-West Alameda County Conference selection as a defensive back last season.
Deer Valley has some inexperience on the offensive line, including sophomore Troy DeCuir, but Woods credited his staff with getting the new players adjusted to the varsity level.
Defensively, Deer Valley will be led by linebackers Matt Gavello, Chibueze Onyeukwu, a transfer from Pittsburg, and Malik Hutchings, brother of former De La Salle star Michael Hutchings,
Malik is playing organized football for the first time after solely playing basketball the past few years, but because of his size -- 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds -- and quickness, Hutchings has already received scholarship offers from UTEP, Hawaii, and UC Davis without even playing a snap of varsity football.
"He's a great kid, very personable, easy to coach and work with," Woods said. "We're lucky to have him, and he's getting better."
Sept. 6 RODRIGUEZ 7 p.m.
Sept. 13 vs. College Park^ 7 p.m.
Sept. 20 at Santa Rosa 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 27 vs. San Leandro# 7 p.m.
Oct. 4 at Vacaville 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 11 FREEDOM* 7 p.m.
Oct. 18 at Antioch* 7 p.m.
Oct. 25 LIBERTY* 7 p.m.
Nov. 1 at Pittsburg* 7 p.m.
Nov. 8 HERITAGE* 7 p.m.
^At Diablo Valley College
#At Burrell Field