High school winter sports preview

Soccer, wrestling, basketball seasons underway for Falcons and Dons

As the splendor of fall gives way to the frigid nights of winter, it is time for the second season of high school sports -- the East Bay Athletic League winter season.

Following are breakdowns of the winter varsity teams for Amador Valley and Foothill.


Amador Valley and coach Adam Sax have a lot of growing to do as the Dons lost their top eight players from last season to graduation and then lost top returning player Peter Ernst to an ankle injury for three weeks in their first game of this season.

Ernst should be back by the start of EBAL play and, along with Hakim Tokhi and sophomore Mitch Benson, will be looked upon to lead the team.

The Dons enter the season with four sophomores, one junior and six seniors.

"It's not just new players, but a new system," Sax said. "We got it going some during the summer, and I hope with more reps we will get it done."

Ernst could very well be the key. The Amador star football lineman is 6-foot-2 and the tallest person on the team. He can knock down the three-pointer, and as a football lineman, he can be a force down low as well.

After Ernst, it is all about the younger players coming of age.

"We will rely on the sophomores to learn on the fly," Sax said. "This is going to be a learning experience, but we know we will get better each game."

Foothill welcomes new coach Jason Wallis to the school after he spent the last three years as an assistant at Monte Vista.

"I am excited for the season," Wallis said. "The guys are buying in to the culture I want."

Leading the way for the Falcons are a trio of players with a strong supporting cast.

Seth Cobb, one of the top offensive players in the league, returns for his senior year, as does center Garrett Wrenn.

Shaun Kienhofer, who started as a freshman and sophomore but took last year off, returns this season and was voted one of the captains of the team. Cobb and Michael Climent are the other two captains.

"Shaun is the kind of player coaches love to have," Wallis said. "He just knows the game and will always want to guard the other team's best player."

Sam Novitske got a lot of time on the court as a freshman last year and returns this year, providing the Falcons with more depth.

Will Lewis (Jr.), Michael Smith (So.), Andrew Bailey (Sr.), Ryan Sweeney (Sr.), Rob Allen (Jr.), Gautham Divikar (Jr.), Gary Pride (So.) and JT McDermott (So.) complete the rest of the team.

Griffin Chin (Jr.) figured to play a key role this year, but he is out for the season with an injury.


Foothill has a pair of four-year starters setting the pace this year in Caroline McMorrow and Sophia Brown.

McMorrow figures to be one of the top big players in the league this year.

"Caroline is the ultimate competitor," coach Bruce Funk said. "She works hard all the time and uses her quickness to be a fierce rebounder."

Brown will also be counted on across the front line.

"Sophia is an outstanding athlete that has great leaping ability," Funk said. "She has very good instincts on the court."

With a balanced roster of five seniors, five juniors, two sophomores and a freshman, the Falcons have a nice blend of experience and youth. It figures to be a key element for Foothill in a league where after Carondelet, everyone else is right there.

"There is not another front-running team in the league after Carondelet," Funk said. "Everyone else is really close and can beat each other in any game."

Amador coach Augie Valdez is excited about his team this year.

"This is a much-improved team from last year," Valdez said. "This year we have more depth -- more chemistry."

Kristy Brown, a 6-4 center/forward, can control the front line, and she and Ashley Balestreri give the Dons a really good 1-2 punch.

"Kristy is very dominant and Ashley has been playing lights-out," Valdez said.

At 5-11, freshman Emily Tincher is an exciting player, and Valdez also returns three-year point guard Haley Wesenberg.

"Haley is a very solid point guard," the coach said. "She sees the court great and doesn't turn the ball over."


Amador will be led by a pair of returning players that earned All-EBAL status last season.

Defender Jeff Klei was a unanimous choice First-Team pick last season, and along with goalie Blake Staniford, an Honorable Mention selection as a sophomore last year, figure to provide a strong anchor for the defense. Junior Jimmy Thompson, another returning starter, is locked in on the defense as well.

Ryan Racer, a senior and one of the captains, will be the key in the midfield. Racer will be able to rely on junior Garrett Howell, also a starter as a sophomore, as a big part of the midfield.

"Most of the kids on the team have some impressive accomplishments at the club level," Amador coach Scott Berglin said.

Foothill coach Jason Wescott is also very excited about his team, which he calls the best he has had in his four years running the program.

The strength of the team starts in the back with senior Alex Lee. Wescott and the Falcons got a boost when former San Jose Earthquakes developmental player Mike DeSisto decided to play high school this year.

Jackson Still, Imran Matin and Nima Habibi anchor a solid group in the middle of the field.

"We are really strong in the back and solid in the midfield," Wescott said. "If we can score some goals, we will be tough."

Up front, the Falcons will look to freshman Kamran Matin as one choice to put the ball in the back of the net.


Foothill and coach Ron Lambert enter the season with a young but balanced team.

"We don't have that one superstar," Lambert said. "All the girls work hard and all can play."

With two freshmen and seven sophomores on the 19-player roster, there may be some growing pains for the Falcons in the challenging EBAL, but Lambert and his staff seem to have the right attitude.

"We have to approach it one game at a time," Lambert said. "We focus on individual defending and decision-making."

For the defense, Bryanna Schreiber is set in the goal with Jazmyn Green, Julia Densmore and Ariana Nino getting a lot of time on the back line.

In the midfield, Lambert is looking for players like Taylor Noval, Katlyn Fanciskovich, Sarah Mirr and Sarah Broacha as major contributors.

Up front, Tamilyn Kwong is the point person and is a solid goal-scoring threat for Foothill.

Amador coach Tim Gray is hoping the Dons continue to mature as the season rolls on.

"In the non-league games, we are just trying to figure things out," Gray said. "The league is always tough and always a fight."

Anchoring the defense is three-year varsity goalie Juliet Allen. In front of Allen will be senior Mackenzie Bammer and junior Jenyce Dutcher.

In the midfield, senior Sophie Santos may be the most talented player, according to Gray, and Sadie Moore is the heart and soul of the team. In the front line, Sam Frost has been the go-to player at this point.


Amador Valley comes into the 2015-16 season as defending EBAL Dual champions.

The team is led by returning seniors Craig Holtzclaw, James O'Brien and Robert Boxberger. Junior all-section wrestler Tyler Kline returns for a run at state.

Additional returning varsity wrestlers include Tyler Self, Brody Kiehn, Brandon Jordan, Jacob Lum, Jake Perlman, Lucas Sira and Andrew Alviar. All qualified for sections last year and recorded wins at the tourney.

Varsity newcomers Gabe Alviar, Thomas Pak, Michael Azuma, Tyler Bonitz and Alex Crepeau round out the varsity squad. Expectations are high as Amador only graduated three wrestlers.

For Foothill, Dustin Dukleth, Johnny French, Luke Hazen, Justin Phillips and Cameron Ghoddoucy are all wrestlers to watch this season.

Dukleth, one of the top linemen in the EBAL during the football season, is looking for his third straight trip to the CIF State Championships.

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Like this comment
Posted by Nepa Tism
a resident of Del Prado
on Dec 14, 2015 at 12:32 pm

Oh boy more basketball blunders in P-Town.

Looks like Amador will be a doormat in EBAL this year. Wow... seems like the memo is out on the new coach. The ticker is running on how long Sax will last. Expect him to blow out or be let go before 16/17 season.

Continued musical chairs... coaching foothill, no surprise... (portion removed)

Like this comment
Posted by Fan
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Jan 9, 2016 at 11:13 pm

Amador varsity beat San Ramon on January 9, 2015 by 4 points. This was with playing 3 to 4 sophomores on the court at most times. Everyone knows this is going to be a rebuilding year with so many seniors graduating from last years team. Go Dons!! They had a great game.

1 person likes this
Posted by Me
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 18, 2016 at 9:52 am

Begin rant:

It seems many high school coaches are a joke, they think that they are there for some grand purpose like winning the NBA or the World Cup. They lose sight of the fact that they are there for the Kids and not viscera versa. They tend to be narcissistic with their power,poorly trained on the intricacies of their games or must have been poorly treated in high school.

When as parents we see teams of highly skilled athletes play at a sub-par level it is disheartening.

I think both high schools athletic directors should perform survey monkey review of all of their coaches - one survey for the players and one for the students. (many parents pay their fair share, another topic 'why do rich families think it is ok not to?)

Currently too many crappy coaches wield too much power.

End rant;

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