AV Panthers’ Stellar Year
by Jim Young, June 1, 2016
A very special era in Anderson Valley boys athletics is ending at graduation on June 9th, 2016.
Unlike our local North Coast Leauge (NCL) 3, I grew up in a town where there were 2500 students in the high school. There were 650 in my graduating class. The basketball team would have hundreds try out and 12 made the team. As an adult, I have been coaching in a school district for 14 years where there are 180 students in the high school, about 20 boys per class. Our league is made up of eight teams. Mendocino, where I coach, is one of the biggest. The other two “big schools” in our league are Anderson Valley and Point Arena. The others in the league vary in population from 60 to 140 students. From a pure math standpoint, this size difference make it such where over time AV, PA, and Mendocino win most of the athletic titles, in most sports, girls and boys.
In small school athletics it does not take much to break this pattern for short periods of time. A few standout athletes of the same age can go through school together and make a big impact on our league. In the long run, the chances of this happening to the larger schools is greater. Anyone involved with coaching long enough will experience this. I remember a group of three Leggett athletes of the same age go through school together when there was a total of 36 kids in the school (average four boys per class). They impacted our league for three years. A few years after that, Laytonville had a group dominate for a few years and won our league. (By the way, all the examples in this article are referring to boys basketball, as that is the sport I coach)
When groups of talented athletes go through school together in the three larger schools mentioned above, the impact is even greater. Point Arena had the Washington brothers and their friends for five years. I had three 6’5 boys come through the Mendocino schools together. The results were lots of winning and league titles. For those following Anderson Valley athletics, a group has just passed through (actually still passing through) which I claim is the best all-around group of male athletes to ever go through Anderson Valley together. I did not say best athletes. I said best group of athletes passing through together. Having coached against them for the last four years, and I may be prejudiced, but the statistics probably are in my favor. Just count the league wins and league titles in various sports in which they competed. The numbers don’t lie. I work in the Anderson Valley part time, and I’ve been honored to get to know this group and their families. I call this group “Cesar and Company.” This nick-name was born to them their freshman year in the Mendocino gym. This was our year to have a group of 6’5 players and we easily won four games against Anderson Valley. I made a comment at half time about how talented the AV 9th graders were, and like most teenagers my players laughed at me because they were so far ahead. My response was, “that’s easy for you to say, you’re graduating. I have to play against Cesar and Co. for three more years”.
The nickname stuck. “Cesar and Co.” This in no way means it was a one player show. Any coach or player knows it takes more than one player to dominate over time. I agree, but any competitor also knows any group needs a leader. In my opinion, this was Cesar Soto’s strength. A rare talent for a 14-17 year old. A pure leader. This group had all the pieces in all the sports they played together. They dominated all the high school sports they entered. They did it with talent, grace, and class. They were seven individuals that together were better than the sum of all the parts.
I thank you for four great years in the gym.
Cesar Soto, Jared Johnston, Erin Perez
Abraham Sanchez, Will Lemons, Izac Parra, Joshua Chavez