FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — MARCH 21, 2012 –
By Steve Marschke
Steve DaPrato has been living near River City High School most of his life, a West Sacramento native “born and bred.” But this year, he takes the reins of the school’s football program for the first time.
River City has posted a couple of winning seasons in a row before tapping DaPrato as new head coach to fill a vacancy. The News-Ledger talked to him by phone, and caught up to him as he worked with a group of students learning to run the hurdles on the school track as an assistant track coach to Coach Williams.
“I’m very impressed with the kids and the attitude on campus,” DaPrato said of the Raider football program.
As a young athlete, DaPrato’s own football career at Christian Brothers High School was pretty short.
“I played football my freshman year, got a serious injury, and never played again,” he said. “I was a track athlete at Sac State – not a star, I was just one of the guys on the team.”
DaPrato was a student teacher at James Marshall High School in West Sac, and then went to coach at Elk Grove High – now well-known for its “Thundering Herd” football team.
“We won the first section title in the school’s history in 1984,” said DaPrato.
Following that were some years with Modesto Junior College, where his teams won four bowl championships.
His 1995 team at Modesto was ranked fifth in its division nation-wide, scoring an average of 48.5 points and rushing for 525 yards per game, reports RC Assistant Coach Chris Baker.
More recently, DaPrato spent 10 years at Chabot College in the Bay Area, where he served variously as football coach, track coach and athletic director, before retiring recently.
He told Coach Baker why he came out of retirement to try his skills at River City:
“Obviously, the need and situation prompted me to talk to Coach Baker,” quoted Baker. “(Baker) is a friend, colleague, and relative by marriage. I just felt that River City needs to move to a college-type offense to give everyone a chance to shine.”
DaPrato wants to split the RC players into more distinct squads for offense and defense, to better learn their positions.
“What most high schools do and what River City was doing, is that you have an ‘offense day’ and a ‘defense day’,” he told the News-Ledger. The players alternate learning each role.
“At the college level, you can’t do that. The best way to teach the players is to have them make a choice, and play offense or defense, and teach them that. You script your practice for offense and for defense. Although some of the best athletes will do both.”
He said he will coach all quarterbacks, from incoming eighth graders to the varsity QB.
“In the past, we’ve been a smash-mouth, wedge blocking team, and that’s got its place, especially within the five-yard line,” said DaPrato. “But we’re going to have an extremely varied offense.”
The biggest thorn in the side of RC football?
“The biggest problem I’ve seen is the academic performance,” answered the coach. “You can’t lose 30 percent of your team (to academic ineligibility) every year and be good. That’s the only part of the culture that needs to be changed here. Yet, I’ve met with the counselors and they’re as good as I’ve seen at the college level. It’s the students and their parents.”
How good can the football program at RCHS get?
“I think the sky’s the limit,” answered DaPrato. “Everybody has to get on board. There are plenty of athletes in the area. Right now, it’s a one-high-school town.”
He said he has been inspired by the play of the school’s girls basketball team, drove deep to the playoffs this year..
“If the football team can play as hard as those girls, we’ll be very good,” said DaPrato. “That’s really what you want all the kids to do – play hard.”
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