The DVC football team will enter the new season with depth and experience in all the right places.
Factor in a stellar group of running backs and a pair of monster bookends on both lines, and it's no wonder coach Mike Darr is excited. 
"Our running backs are by far the best group I've ever had since I've been here, and they're about four or five deep," Darr said. "We've got hammers and home run hitters and guys with a tremendous amount of experience, both at the high school and the JC level." 
Darr, in his 10th season in the program, loves his team's attitude, which complements its talent. 
"One of the things that jumps out is this group's ability and willingness to put their heads down and work," Darr said. "It's been a great group on the field. Just whatever needed to get done, they're gonna get it done." 
The Vikings, coming off a 5-5 season, will need their best in the brawny National-Bay 6 Conference against the likes of City College of San Francisco, Santa Rosa and College of San Mateo. District rival Contra Costa, which went 9-2 last year and competed in the American-Pacific 7, has made the big jump into the Bay 6. 
DVC will open the season with an attractive matchup against American River on Sept. 2 at Viking Stadium. Both teams are ranked in the top 25 in the nation. Even though they have had numerous common opponents, ARC and DVC have not met during Darr's time in Pleasant Hill. 
"It's a great test. It's a great way to start the season," Darr said. "It's allowed a tremendous focus in the offseason. We've felt ARC and ourselves have been similar programs, kind of on the rise at the same times.  It's exciting." 
Here's a look at the Vikings. 
Quarterback: With last year's freshman standout Drew Anderson now at Buffalo, freshman Jaden Brisendine of Vanden, who redshirted at Humboldt State, has stepped into the starting spot. He's a dual threat who also punted and kicked in high school, even making some tackles. "He's looking fantastic," coach Darr says of Brisendine. Backup Gary Chapeta of Livermore is a mature presence, and Tim Evitt of Granada provides depth 
Running backs: Desmond Nisby (6-1, 235), of Vallejo, a transfer from Santa Rosa and one of the team's quickest guys, leads a star-studded running back castNisby once broke five tackles on the game-winning, 25-yard touchdown for Santa Rosa against Sacramento City in 2014. Miles Harrison of Clayton Valley Charter was the East Bay Offensive Player of the Year in 2014 after running for 2,704 yards and 34 touchdowns as a senior. He ran for 2,020 yards as a junior. "He is a special running back," Darr says of Harrison. "He's got tremendous vision, the ability to start and stop and change directions." Devin Hope of Heritage is the jack-of-all-trades, a tremendous blocker and receiver who runs well. Sledgehammer Jake Villa of Las Lomas – a Christian McCaffrey look-alike off the field -- plays baseball and football at DVC. He's big on short-yardage plays. 
Receivers: A couple of transfers should play huge roles. Marquese Surrell played last year for Northwest Missouri, the Division II national championsA former basketball player who played only one year of varsity football, Surrell is expected to have a big year. Christian Fuca of San Ramon Valley, a transfer from Humboldt State where he redshirted like Brisendine, is also very solid. Versatile Dominic Gomes (CCSF/Bishop O'Dowd) runs tremendous routes like CJ Cornwell did last year, and will play a big role on special teams. The sleeper of the group is Ryan AndersonDrew Anderson's younger brother and former teammate at Miramonte. Ryan chose football at DVC over playing rugby at Cal, Darr said. Tight end Sean Vaisima of Clayton Valley Charter was so impressive in the spring he received four scholarship offers, from Oregon State, Colorado State, Hawaii and BYU. 
Special teams: Manny Lopez, a transfer from Santa Rosa, is the place-kicker, and Patrick Holst of College Park has a cannon leg and strong soccer background. Long snapper Jeff Hansen of Las Lomas is a valued veteran guy, a team leader with deft accuracy. "He's everybody's big brother on the team," Darr said of Hanson 
Offensive line: Tackle John Vaka of Skyline (6-5, 280), an Oregon commit, is one of the top recruits in the nation. On the other side, athletic freshman Jason Dickson of Vallejo (6-6, 300) is potentially an even bigger recruit next year who looks like an NFL lineman. Dickson only played six games of high school football because he was focused on basketball. Versatile returner C Rangel Lowry (Freedom), a three-time Bay Valley Athletic League wrestling champion, was a standout last year on a nicked-up line who has worked on his flexibility and quickness. Sophomore G Austin Pauletich of Vallejo (6-4, 315) is rock solid. Rounding out the Offensive Line will be Adriel Miller (6-3 3, 294).
Defensive line: The Vikings boast two bookend 6-foot-5 guys with long arms and great get-offs in Dylan Gilfoy of Liberty and Ville Valasti of Helsini, Finland – a look-alike of Swedish actor Dolph Lundgren. NG DJ Pauletich of Vallejo (6-5, 320), Austin's all-business older brother, is the power broker inside. 
Linebacker: Kory Lamberts of Alhambra has bounced back from Middle Tennessee after earning all-conference honors last season for the Vikings. A sideline-to-sideline player and the team's inspirational leader, he returned from a serious knee injury last season. Versatile sophomore Brenton Allen, of Dunedin, Fla., is adept at bringing the blitz and may be sitting on a big season. 
Defensive backs: Passionate safety Darren Bowles, of Georgia, a great cover guy and a nonstop presence in practice, and Marcus de la Pena of San Ramon Valley represent the heart-and-soul of the defense, along with Lamberts. Bowles is a carbon copy of last year's stalwart Kyle Trego, who's now at ColoradoDe la Pena started all 10 games last season and is spot-on with every defensive play in practice"It's been hard all spring and summer to even find a mistake that he makes," Darr said of de la Pena. "I make sure to point it out in films because it's so unique." De la Pena had an offer from Wyoming and a walk-on offer at Cal out of high school. Sophomore returners Yamvo Teague of Berkeley, Marquis Davenport of HerculesDevin Bracy of Vallejo are all excellent players who have "been through the wars and learned the lessons," Darr said. "We have some talented freshmen coming in they have taken under their wings." 
  • Matt Schwab