Danville Express

Column - December 14, 2007

Diablo Views: Any given Friday

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

The high school football season ended last weekend - at the Coliseum in Oakland no less, where San Ramon Valley High School reigned victorious as the North Coast Section 3A Champions and Cal High battled for 4A. But the local grand finale took place Monday at the Danville Rotary luncheon. Three players from each of the high schools, along with their coaches, principals and families, enjoyed each others' company as the nine were recognized at the 11th annual Peter Villa Awards. At the end, one of the nine was singled out to take the huge trophy back to his high school for a year.

These guys might be in high school but their athletic endeavors captivated the entire Valley. I talked to several people who go to the games even though their kids are out of school. The three coaches came to the front of the room one at a time to introduce the players, who were chosen for their athletic abilities and performance, leadership and scholarship.

First, Coach Tony Sanchez of California High took the mike, noting there isn't a better place to coach because of the involvement of the community. He introduced his three guys: Alex Spalliero, Nick Spalliero, and Nick Rosato, each with accolades. About Rosato, he said, "There may not be many people you want to date your daughter but Nick Rosato could date mine."

Next came Monte Vista Coach Craig Berman, who presented Rich Storelee, Rob Tomasello and Drew McAllister. He noted the support all the local teams give to each other. "We're watching each other's teams and we're pulling for them," he said. He pointed out that San Ramon Coach Dave Kravitz has a son playing at Cal High, and he congratulated the others for their performances in the championships last Saturday.

Kravitz took the floor - by this time they were using their "coaching voices" instead of the wailing microphone - and said they'd spent the season text-messaging, e-mailing and telephoning each other, taking pride in their collective accomplishments. His team beat the Redwood Empire team at the Coliseum on Saturday afternoon and he said while they were lining up for their championship photo, the players spotted the Cal High team warming up to face De La Salle; they spontaneously broke formation to run down to give them High Fives. The three Wolves chosen for the award were Kai Cummings, Harmon Bruno and Dan Smithwick.

Assemblyman Guy Houston, himself a football player 30 years ago for San Ramon Valley High, presented the top award this year. His father Fred is a former SRVHS coach plus was active for many years with the Thunderbirds along with Pete Villa, who founded the organization and was head coach for its first 12 seasons. All of these high school players had learned the game as members of T-Birds before they got to high school.

"I would not be where I am today without high school athletics," Houston told the players, saying he went to St. Mary's College on an athletic scholarship. "I attribute my success to my father and to Pete Villa."

He then announced the winner of this year's 11th annual award - Nick Rosato of Cal High.

For the first time, Pete himself gave a speech, first saying that Nick had made him happy by verifying that his last name is Italian because Villa's father was an Italian immigrant.

"We hear a lot of bad things about teenagers," Villa sent on to say, "but I'm leaving here with the feeling that the future is bright."

He talked about the early days, as they began youth football in Lamorinda in 1958, then moved to Danville in 1963 and became the San Ramon Valley Thunderbirds. In those days the annual budget was $3,000; it's currently more than $90,000.

"We now have five teams - that's a big accomplishment," said Villa.

Bob Beaton, organizer of the Peter Villa Award, asked Rosato if he wanted to give a speech, too, but he quickly said, "No." Beaton started the awards 11 years ago when he was Danville Rotary president after Gary Cappelletti suggested it as a way to honor both the high school football players and Pete Villa for the generations of athletes being developed here. It's a great season wrap-up.

-Dolores Fox Ciardelli can be e-mailed at editor@DanvilleWeekly.com.

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