If there’s a gene for Panther football talent, then Jim Boccio, Jr. inherited it, and passed it on. His father, Jim Boccio, Sr. was Antioch High’s co-MVP in 1942 and son Brian continued the tradition as MVP of the 1992 Antioch High team. Jim Jr. was the top back in 1969 earning the prestigious AHS Ron Pritchard Award, later on earning MVP at Diablo Valley College in 1971. Jim was named First Team All-DVAL in high school, scoring 10 touchdowns his senior year, placing him at fourth in the league with his overall total of 62 points. One of his best performances was in the 20-0 shutout of Pittsburg in the 1969 “Big-LIttle Game,” where he scored two TDs and intercepted a pass to end Antioch’s 22-year losing streak in the historic cross-town rivalry. The NorCal Chapter of the National Football Foundation awarded Jim one of its scholarships and Fitzpatrick Chevrolet named him the top high school athlete in the county in 1969-1970. When not playing football, Jim earned an overall MVP award in track for his performance in the hurdles, long jump, sprints and relays. Jim was a walk-on player at the University of Southern California and played three games with the freshman team. He came back home for his sophomore year and attended Diablo Valley College where his 14 interceptions earned recognition as the Golden Gate Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 1971. Jim’s amazing performance at DVC – #1 in the nation in total return yardage for interceptions, kickoffs and punt returns – gained notice from Utah State University, which lured him away with a full scholarship. He played for Utah’s 9-2 “Team of the Century” in 1972 and is credited with 45 tackles (20 solo and 25 assists). A broken collarbone caused Jim to redshirt in 1973, but he was back and running in 1974. Jim left Utah with some amazing football experiences and two degrees; a B.A. in zoology and M.A. in biology. He later earned a doctoral degree from San Francisco in podiatry. He helped coach AHS football in 1990 – 2002 and currently has a practice as a podiatrist in Antioch.
Why call it a sports record book, if there’s only one name listed? Powerhouse pitcher Sue Cardinale dominated softball at Antioch High in the 1980s, setting 12 school records. “She was just overpowering” according to the losing coach in the 1986 North Coast Section finals. Sue’s AHS records were; Most Strikeouts in League (132); Most Strikeouts in a season (236); Most Career Strikeouts (361); Most No-Hitters in a Season ( 3); Most Career No-Hitters (7); Most Shut-outs in a Season (8): Most Career Shut-outs (18); Lowest League ERA (.38); Lowest Career ERA (.99); Most League Wins in a Season (14); Most Total Wins in a Season (25) and Fewest League Losses in a season (0). Sue was a three-year varsity player, helping her Panther team, coached by Andria Edwards, reach NCS finals all three years. As a junior she was co-MVP for softball and was named by the Contra Costa Times to its All-East Bay team. She was also all-league in the DVAL due to her 20-6 overall season, which included pitching in three consecutive winning games at North Coast, one of which was a 3-1 defeat of Arcata High, a team going into the semi-finals with a 24-0 season. It was during her senior year of 1986 that Sue began to strike fear into the hearts of batters who faced her – especially the 132 she struck out during the perfect 14-0 league season. She had three no-hitters, seven one-hitters and 25 total wins for the year that culminated in an NCS championship against an unlikely opponent – Pittsburg, both east county teams having made it to the playoffs out of a field of 149 high schools. Sue’s pitching prowess was confirmed in the first NCS semi-finals game: a perfect 14-0 win against Alameda achieved in five innings. She went on to pitch a total of 31 scoreless innings at the 1986 NCS playoffs, gave up only eight hits and struck-out 40 batters, finishing with a 25-2 total senior record and a combined record of 45 wins and 8 losses over her last two prep years. Sue earned East Bay Softball Player of the Year, presented to her by baseball great Joe Morgan; DVAL Softball Player of the Year (as a junior and senior) as well as being named the Contra Costa Times and Oakland Tribune’s Softball Player of the Year as a senior. When not pitching for AHS, Sue played on a traveling team with the American Softball Association which took second in the nation. But softball wasn’t Sue’s first love, it was horses. The high-achiever was a Junior Grand National Champion while she was barely out of elementary school. Her awards for riding include Pacific Coast and Northern California championships. But it was softball that earned Sue a scholarship to play at the National Top-20 ranked University of the Pacific in Stockton, where she was a four-year starter, earning an MVP in her senior year. Her record performances remain in the top 10 at UOP: Pitching Appearances (103), Games Started as a Pitcher (90), Innings Pitched (670), Most Strikeouts (318) and 7th overall for her ERA of 1.30. Following her graduation in 1991, Sue continued her education at the University of San Francisco where she earned a B.S. in nursing.
He was a diminutive man with a big impact on his players. An ode written by Keith Broaders just after Marv Comstock’s passing in 1995 described the Antioch coach’s personality as “gentle as a pit bull and subtle as a shark.” Marv, an Antioch High 1949 graduate, learned all about football at the knee of one of Antioch’s most revered coaches, Jack Danilovich, and was a JV player when future NFL pros Gino Marchetti and Duane Putnam put the Panthers on the map as AHS varsity team stars. After a year at Fibreboard following high school, Marv spent four years in the Navy, then graduated from San Francisco State College (now University) and was promptly hired as prep coach at St. Vincent’s High. His Vallejo team had a 20-5 record over three years with an undefeated season in 1960 – the first of three teams to achieve a perfect record under Marv. Antioch’s School Board was wise to select the Panther alumni from among 40 applicants as a head coach in 1970, as the local paper pointed out. Marv’s resume listed a coaching record of 56 -16 in basketball; 49 -11 in track (which included two championships) and a dazzling 75-9-1 in wrestling, with two league titles in four years. Marv’s abrasive “field general” style kept his players focused during his three-decade, 98 -18 -1 football coaching career at four prep schools; nine years in Antioch, two years in Vallejo, three years in Walnut Creek and three years at Concord High, where Marv was the first varsity line coach in football and head wrestling coach when the school opened in 1966. The flat-top wearing Marv stood head and shoulders below his long-haired 1970s teen players, pushing Panther football teams to “Get up and strive to win.” Marv’s decade-long tenure with the Panthers produced an amazing 81 wins, 16 losses and 7 titles. However, his proudest achievement was never losing to Pittsburg, he said in an interview in 1982, a year after his retirement from teaching and coaching.
Antioch High’s Eells Field was officially named in 1957 to honor a man who brought football prominence to this then tiny Delta town in the 1920s. In a plaque dedicated by the Antioch Rotary Club, Dutch Eells is called “a builder of men.” Walter Herbert Eells was born in 1898 in Nebraska and settled in San Diego where he attended high school. He was recruited to the University of California, Berkeley and played football between 1918 -1920 and baseball in 1920. Dutch was a member of the undefeated “Wonder Team” that wiped out Ohio State 28-0 to earn Cal’s first Rose Bowl victory in 1920. The “Wonder Team” earned its nickname for trouncing Northern California rival St. Mary’s 127-0 and its overall season scoring of 537-14. Dutch settled in Antioch after college to work at Fibreboard, where he had a 40-year career, and began grooming a community football team whose dominance would overshadow the accomplishments of his Cal teammates. In 1957, a newspaper writer marveled at the ability of Antioch – a town of not quite 4,000 residents – to produce enough talent to beat college teams and go up against pro squads in the fledging NFL when it was common for the early pro teams to take on amateur challengers. Eells’s Antioch American Legion team was made up of talented young men who thrived under Dutch’s leadership from 1924-1937: 87 wins, 16 losses and 6 ties, with a total score of 2,223 points to their opponents’ 503. The team eventually disbanded due to lack of willing adversaries – “a victim of its superiority.” Eells’s volunteer coaching of Antioch High varsity football for five years resulted in two league titles – quite a feat since the 1928 team had only 13 players. The modest Eells received many offers to coach professionally, including as Cal head coach, but preferred staying in Antioch. While here, he led the crusade for a city park and is responsible for Contra Costa County’s first lighted football field, at what is now Antioch Middle School at 18th and D streets. Eells, who died in 1970, was described by sportswriters of his time as “the best defensive coach in the country.”
Grover was varsity quarterback at Antioch High for his junior and senior years in 1954 and 1955: a “potent factor” in the Panthers’ most successful football seasons since 1948, coached by Brooks Golden. He scored three touchdowns in one game and made several dramatic 40-plus yard runs in his senior year, which earned a spot on the All-Contra-Costa team. As a junior he was named First Team All-League in basketball and played on the 1953-54 Panther “B” team that won the DVAL championship. After switching to half back and kick returner when he attended what was then East Contra Costa Junior College (which became DVC in 1958), Grover was named First Team All-League. During his time at DVC, Grover scored three touchdowns in a spectacular game against the San Jose State freshman team: a four-yard run, a 21-yard reception and an 80-yard punt return. He was a walk-on for the University of California, Berkeley team in 1957 and 1958, later earning a scholarship. Grover also belongs to a rarified group; as a junior he played in the very last Rose Bowl appearance by Cal. In that storied game against Iowa on New Year’s Day 1959, Grover had four carries for 32 yards, one reception for 31 yards, and nine tackles as a defensive back in the loss to Iowa. Grover’s name still appears in the Pac-10 record books for a 92-yard punt return for a touchdown against Washington State in 1959. He was the top player at Cal for punt returns and kickoff returns in 1959, averaging 17.1 and 23 yards respectively. That amazing Cal team led by quarterback Joe Kapp also beat Stanford two years in a row. Grover was selected to play in the 1959 East-West Shrine Game at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco, led by quarterback Don Meredith, later to be a Dallas Cowboys player and Monday Night Football TV commentator. Following his Cal years, Grover tried out as a free agent for the Los Angeles Chargers in 1960 and played in four preseason exhibition games. Coaching became Grover’s occupation following Cal; five years at Berkeley High and a total of nine years at Merritt College in Oakland for football; four years as head track and cross country coach at College of Alameda, two years coaching golf at Merritt, where his men’s team won the Northern California championship, and 16 years of women’s basketball at Merritt prior to his retirement in 2001.
Golf may be the only sport in which players can improve with age. Living proof for that claim is Bob Heaton. As a senior at Antioch High School, he helped the Panther golf team to an undefeated season in 1957, playing alongside teammate Wayne Sleppy, a 2008 Sports Legends inductee. Five decades later, Bob has built an amateur golfing career that may never be matched by another local player.The Antioch native was born in 1939 on Texas Street in a house his father built. Bob graduated from DVC in 1960, then joined the U.S. Army in 1961, stationed in Japan. During his stint in uniform, he won numerous tournaments, including the U.S. Army Pacific, and then represented the Army in Atlanta in 1964, in a tournament won by Bob’s roommate Orville Moody, who became a U.S. Open Winner in 1969. After the Army, Bob built a career as a successful Antioch real estate broker while simultaneously building his resume of golfing accomplishments. He won Antioch and Pittsburg city tournaments multiple times and was the 1966 Northern California Golf Association Public Links champion. Bob turned professional at age 50 to join the Senior Tour, then returned to amateur status when he was 55. Since then he’s played in two USGA Senior Opens, seven USGA Senior Amateur Tournaments between 1997-2004 and two British Senior Amateurs. Playing against Bob in those tournaments were golf legends like Jack Nicklaus, J.C. Sneed, Gary Player, “ChiChi” Rodriguez, Arnold Palmer and Lee Trevino. Bob has personally played with Alan Gieberger, Bob Murphy and Ray Floyd. The year 2000 was an endurance contest; Bob played in 49 events, placing in 27 of them and winning eight, earning the nickname “California Ironman” from USGA magazine. That year Bob earned his second NCGA Player of the Year honor (he also won in 1999) and set a record for points earned with 933. Bob has won more than 100 tournaments in his career, among them; NCGA Public Links and Senior Championship, Northern California Senior Open, Alameda Commuters, Sacramento City and County, Contra Costa County and six father-son tournaments with his son, Rob. Bob continues to play tournament golf and may add even more holes-in-one to his lifetime total of 17.
Baseball skills emerged early for Larry Hopwood. The 1970 Antioch High graduate was already a Babe Ruth All-Star by the age of 15. The Panther Junior Varsity squad clearly benefitted from having the lefty on the team – it won the Diablo Valley Athletic League championship in both 1968 and 1969 under Coach Babe Atkinson. His varsity Antioch High squad, coached by Bill Snelson, won first in the DVAL in 1970 – a team inductee into the Sports Legends Hall this year. By his senior year, Larry was batting .386, the second highest in the league, and had 22 hits, which also led the DVAL. Larry, along with team mate Mike Lucido, were the only players in the DVAL to have more than 20 hits in a season – a statistic that put them far ahead of the 11th best batter in the league – future major league baseball star Kiko Garcia, who then played for Ygnacio Valley. Those batting stats earned the first baseman a berth on the league’s First Team in 1970, and later, a spot on the Antioch High All-Decade Baseball Team for 1961-1970. The Antioch Ledger selected Larry for the All-East County team, a designation that was the personal choice of the paper’s sports editor, who picked the cream of the crop among Pacifica, Pittsburg, Liberty and Antioch high schools. Larry continued playing baseball at Diablo Valley College in 1971-72 and then for the semi-pro American Realty-sponsored team of 1973-74. He also helped organize and played in the Antioch Merchant semi-pro league between 1975 and 1978. Larry remained in Antioch, working as a police officer and playing on the city police force’s bronze and silver medal-winning softball team that competed in the California Police Olympics.
Athletic achievement is not always synonymous with physical brawn. Exhibit A: Bob Koupeny, the 106-pound “Little Blacksmith” who was one of the most successful wrestlers to graduate from Antioch High. A local sportswriter gave him the nickname as a metaphor to describe how Bob’s strong-arm moves hammered his opponents into submission. Bob Koupeny participated in three sports as a Panther; tennis, cross-country and wrestling, however wrestling “became my passion,” he said. All four years of his high school career (1964-1967) included a trip to the Diablo Valley Athletic League finals as a wrestler; fourth place as a freshman at 106 pounds, first place as a sophomore and junior at 106 pounds and second place as a senior at 115 pounds. The final three seasons resulted in moving on to the North Coast Championships, where he placed second as a sophomore and first in both his junior and senior years, which then qualified him to compete in the Northern California championships for three consecutive years: the first AHS wrestler to do so. Bob placed third in California as a senior. Antioch High’s MVP wrestler for three straight years was also named “Wrestler of the Meet” in the DVAL championships in 1966. He didn’t allow any points to be scored against him in any of his three matches and was undefeated as a junior. Antioch was host of the North Coast meet in 1966, in which Bob trounced his Livermore opponent 13-0 to win the 106-pound championship. Bob was offered a scholarship to wrestle at U.C. Berkeley, then the hotbed of student anti-war protests, but instead enlisted in the U.S. Army at the height of the Vietnam War after a brief stay at DVC. Following his military service, Bob went back to school at Diablo Valley College, then transferred to St. Mary’s College where he received a bachelor’s degree in history in 1975.
“Put me in, Coach – I’m ready to play today; Look at me, I can be, Centerfield.” Mike Lucido is the living embodiment to the lyrics from that John Fogerty hit song. His centerfield play for the Antioch High Panthers put the eager athlete on the Diablo Valley Athletic League First Team as a junior in 1970, and again as a senior in 1971. That 1970 season resulted in a batting average of .362, which was sixth highest in the league, 19 RBI’s in 16 league games and two grand-slam homers, the last of which was against College Park for the league title, turning a 3-6 loss into a 7-6 win. As a junior, Mike was second in the DVAL for total hits – 21 – one of only two players to top 20 hits that season. Running nine places behind him in 11th place was Ygnacio Valley senior Kiko Garcia who went on to a nine-year MLB career. By his senior year Mike had cracked the magic number and upped his batting average to .415, earning the DVAL title, and led his teammates as a captain. This 1971 performance was even better than the stats which earned Mike a spot on the AHS All-Decade team as a junior. As a freshman at Diablo Valley College, Mike was named to the All-Conference Second Team, and was the Vikings’ Most Improved Player. His second year at DVC showed continued improvement for the leadoff batter, with Mike raising his average to .365, up from the .324 he batted as a college freshman. Mike moved on to play at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 1973, where a Las Vegas Sun sportswriter wrote that the lefty outfielder is “a definite pro prospect,” who was offered a contract by the Philadelphia Phillies during both seasons he played for the Rebels. While in Las Vegas, Mike had a .385 average, which included six doubles, six triples and a home run. When Mike returned home to Antioch, he played for the semi-pro Antioch Realtors Team.
Older brother Gino – the NFL Hall of Famer – acknowledges that his bruising 215-pound little brother Angelo was the better football player in high school. “Itsie” played halfback, fullback, quarterback and place-kicker in an era when smaller teams had to cover more positions. In a 1994 interview, just after being named to the All-Time Top 20 in the NFL, Gino reflected on the Marchetti brothers’ experiences at Antioch High with teammates Worth Shaw and Nick Rodriguez: (They were) “not a little better, a hell of a lot better” than the Colts’ star. Itsie’s senior year was a spectacular one for Antioch. A screaming crowd of 6,000 jammed the stands to see the Antioch Panthers beat rival Pittsburg 13-0 in 1946’s “Big-Little” game in which Itsie scored a 21-yard rushing touchdown. Itsie was Co-MVP with his Co-Captain Bob Vossler and was named All-County in 1946. For the Panthers’ 19th consecutive victory, the multifaceted Itsie ran for 108 yards in nine carries and had a touchdown against Acalanes. Itsie was honorable mention on the All Nor-Cal team. Ironically, it was Itsie who originally drew the attention of college football recruiters. According to a news article based on an interview with Nick Rodriguez in the early 1990s, “Stan Pavco, the line coach at Modesto Junior College, came down to recruit Itsie and Nick Rodriguez…While he was luring the two, Gino rode up on a motorcycle. ‘That looks like a good player,’ said Pavco, pointing to Gino, ‘why don’t you bring him down with you?’” Itsie wound up playing on the St. Mary’s College freshman football team, serving as captain. Described in 1952 as a “pile-driving fullback,” Itsie later played for the very popular Antioch Hornets semi-pro team that filled the AHS stadium with tickets selling for $1. The games were a major event in the town, which then had a population of only 11,000. A 1952 banquet that drew more than 100 celebrants honored the triumphant Hornet team and particularly Itsie, who was named outstanding backfield offensive player. Details are sketchy, but in a carefully preserved 1955 Topps Football Card in the Sports Legends collection, both Gino and brother Itsie were photographed in the team picture of the Baltimore Colts. Itsie was later released, but big brother Gino went on to make history.