Del Rio is still one of the best high school linebackers I've ever seen, maybe the best. He was a 6-3, 230-pounder at Hayward High from 1978-1980 and to this day delivered one of the most frightening hits I've ever seen in a high school game. The year was 1980, the opponent was Miramonte of Orinda, the place was the Oakland Coliseum and at stake was a CIF North Coast Section title. On the play, Del Rio came hard on a blitz on the blind side of the quarterback. The kid (I can't remember his name) had no idea what was coming. Del Rio delivered one of those head-snapping, no-mercy blows square in the center of the back. I believe the quarterback suffered a broken collarbone. Hayward won the game and Del Rio was later named all-state and medium schools state player of the year.
•Jack Del Rio also is part of perhaps the funniest moment I've ever seen in a NorCal tournament basketball game at the Oakland Coliseum.
In addition to football, Del Rio was terrific in basketball and as a catcher in baseball. Hayward was playing some team with a 5-foot-6 or 5-foot-7 point guard who couldn't have weighed much more than 130 pounds. The diminutive kid comes down the floor on a break and Del Rio tries to get in the way.
This little kid bumps the hulking, muscular Del Rio. The all-state linebacker pretends to get knocked down, trying to draw a charge. No one buys it, and the referee just laughs, as if to say, "Yeah, right." It's a good thing Jack got into coaching after his playing career ended. Acting was definitely not in his future.
•Continuing with the Jack Del Rio coaching hire, did you know he's not the first Hayward High grad to land a No. 1 gig in the NFL? Bill Walsh, the architect of the San Francisco 49ers dynasty in the 1980s, also is from Hayward High.
And as far as current coaches in the NFL (with the 49ers' post still open), Del Rio makes it 11 who are from California high schools or basically one-third of the league. No other state comes close.
The other 10 are Brian Billick (Ravens) of Redlands, Herman Edwards (Jets) of Monterey, Jim Fassell (Giants) of Anaheim, Jeff Fisher (Titans) from Taft of Woodland Hills, John Fox (Panthers) from Castle Park of Chula Vista, Mike Holmgren (Seahawks) from Lincoln of San Francisco, Mike Martz (Rams) from Madison of San Diego, Marty Mornhinweg (Lions) from Oak Grove of San Jose, Andy Reid (Eagles) from Marshall of Los Angeles and Dick Vermeil (Chiefs) of Calistoga.
•It's been confirmed through CIF sources by the Modesto Bee that this will be the final year of the CIF state wrestling championships being held in Stockton. The CIF is currently considering two bids for the 2004 championships and those two are from Fresno and Bakersfield. Spanos Center, the University of Pacific facility that's been the site of the event for 15 years, has simply become too small for the state wrestling finals.
Both arenas being considered for next year -- Fresno's Selland Arena and Bakersfield's Centennial Gardens -- will comfortably seat more than 10,000. Spanos Center can squeeze in 7,000 if you're lucky. If last year's finals were held at Centennial Gardens, with Bakersfield High doing so well and winning the team title, imagine how much excitement and how many fans would have been involved.
•The next move by the CIF, hopefully, would be to get the Oakland Arena back into the mix for basketball. ARCO has been fine, but the crowds in Oakland have been consistently higher. That's because the chances of there being teams from the S.F. Bay Area in the state finals are usually better than the chances of teams from the Sac-Joaquin Section. Plus, Bay Area fans seem to come out more to watch many of those SoCal kids they've been hearing about for so many months.
•Coach Michael Lynch's boys basketball team this season at Price of Los Angeles may be his best yet. The three-time defending Div. V state champs played probably the second-best Div. V team in Southern California last week, Rolling Hills Prep, and posted a 69-59 win. Derrick Williams led the Knights with 21 points.
Price's only loss this season came in overtime to Div. IV state-ranked Verbum Dei and the team has numerous wins over Div. I schools even though there are only 75 students enrolled at the school.
•The Washington Union boys team of Easton opened league play last with with a 101-61 victory over Kerman, which gave the Panthers an 82-game league win streak. They're now one behind San Anselmo Drake's 83-game league win streak from the early 1980s for third-place on the all-time state list. The state record of 98 straight league wins was set in 1991 by Banning. Since 1983, Washington's league record is 194-7.
•Ron Heusser only needs eight more wins as the girls basketball coach at Santiago of Garden Grove and he'll have the same total of wins he had during a 16-season stint as the school's boys coach from 1961 to 1976.
Heusser won his 400th game for boys and girls combined last week when Santiago defeated La Quinta of Westminster, 48-40. Since 1989, when Heusser came out of retirement to coach the girls, he's won 196 games. He won 204 games as the boys coach.
•Speaking of 400 career coaching wins, another now on the list for girls basketball is Bill Baxter from El Camino of Sacramento. Baxter, currently in his 30th season of coaching, notched No. 400 on Jan. 9 when his Eagles defeated Del Campo of Fair Oaks, 60-50. Baxter's team began this week at 17-2, but a lopsided loss to Vacaville has keep it from being in the Div. II state rankings.