If you have been around the Tri-Valley for enough years, you can recall when the Livermore High football team was a legit contender every year.
That was then, as in the last 15 years, Livermore was synonymous with losing seasons, with a couple of exceptions. In fact, Livermore had grown to be known as the team a school scheduled for Homecoming.
Those days appear to be gone.
“Someone on the schedule has to be the Homecoming game,” said Livermore coach John Wade. “But you don’t want to be that team each week that goes on the Homecoming tour.”
Last spring in the shorted COVID season, Wade and his Cowboys showed they will not be taken lightly, going 5-1, including an opening night win at Foothill.
Wade is certainly the right coach to continue the resurgence of the Livermore program. He has had plenty of success, winning two North Coast Section 2A East Bay titles at Miramonte in a 9-year stint at the school.
He then coached six years at Dublin, much closer to his San Ramon home where he lived with his wife and children.
“At the end of the sixth season, I wasn’t having the same energy level,” explained Wade as to why he stepped down from the Dublin job. “I didn’t feel the motivation the program needed.”
That lasted until new Livermore coach Ryan Partridge asked Wade if he would come over as an assistant.
“I really enjoyed coaching with Ryan,” said Wade of Partridge. “It was nice being a mentor to him.”
Partridge, who lived in Brentwood with his family, eventually left Livermore for nearby Liberty, a school he led to the California Interscholastic Federation State Championship. He is now with the University of Arizona.
Terry Butler, the former defensive coordinator for Partridge, took over the coaching job at Livermore. After Butler left, it was Wade who stepped back into the head coaching ranks.
The move cemented what was a Livermore program that was already on the move up.
The fall of 2019 was the first season for Wade as the head man and saw the team go 6-4 and make it to the North Coast Section playoffs, falling to Campolindo in the first round.
What the rest of the Tri-Valley wasn’t necessarily aware of was the success of the Livermore freshmen and junior varsity programs.
“My first year I only had 15 seniors,” explained Wade. “But I had junior and sophomore classes that went 18-2, losing only to De La Salle in each of those years.”
Things were looking bright for Livermore football.
“You could feel the momentum growing,” said Wade. “Then the pandemic hit.”
It was the core group of players that found success as freshmen and sophomores that helped carry the team in the down time.
“Once we got cleared for workouts, we had 99 percent attendance,” said Wade. “For nine months those kids worked out 2-3 times a week. That showed me they were ready.”
On March 13, the Cowboys showed the rest of the EBAL, beating Foothill 14-13. The win resonated through the Livermore community.
“It was a great game,” said Wade. “I didn’t know what to expect. I had only been at the school for three years. People started texting me on the following Sunday about how long it had been since Livermore had beaten Foothill. There was a lot of people that were excited. I thought it was kind of cool.”
And it was the building block for the shortened season.
“It hit me – you’ve been losing for years and then you get a big win,” said Wade. “It was a great mentality breakthrough for the program.”
Next came wins over Amador Valley, Dublin, and Dougherty Valley before a rematch against Foothill. This time the Falcons got a 27-14 win, but the die had been cast.
The Cowboys finished the season smashing rival Granada, 27-0, for the 5-1 mark and set the tone for the quick turnaround.
“Our expectations are that we will be a tough team to beat,” said Wade. “We feel confident going into all our games.”
Wade has got a solid group of returning players to lead this year.
Tyler Leonis (TB/SS), Xavier Gutierrez (WR/FS), James Foley (LB), Joe Schweig (FB/LB), and first year starting quarterback Jack Martin are all being counted for big things this season.
Another big positive for the Livermore program is that Wade has a number of coaches joining him as an on-campus coaches, including the head coaches of the JV and freshman teams.
After opening this season with a 20-13 win over Livingston, the Cowboys are ready to go.
But there will be that nemesis Foothill waiting for Livermore in the first game of the EBAL-Valley season.
“Hopefully we will be good enough to be in the conversation when it comes to who can win the Valley,” said Wade. “The kids are all motivated to put Livermore football back on the map. They want to be the team to beat.”