Field to be named after late coach

BOB PRATTE
   STAFF COLUMNIST
   The second home of the late Darrell Von Driska, who devoted his life to kids’ studies and recreation in the San Jacinto Valley, will be given his name.

   The gridiron inside Hemet High’s big, deluxe athletic stadium soon will be called Von Driska Field.

   Bob Lopez, a longtime assistant football coach at the school, led a drive 
to name the field after Von Driska. The effort started soon after he died Sept. 18 from an aggressive cancer.

   “It was pretty much as a coaching staff,” Lopez said of the campaign. “We talked about how much we missed having Von Driska with us.

   “We thought we ought to do something. He was a contributor to the valley as well as Hemet High. He was always on that field.”

   Lopez took the lead in working toward obtaining the school district’s blessing to name the field. The name is expected to be officially adopted by summer’s end.

   Emily Shaw, Hemet High’s principal, conducted a poll to see if the Von Driska name would be a popular choice for the field. There was considerable support.

   The stadium won’t be named 
for Von Driska, just the field.

   Bank of Hemet contibuted $100,000 in 2005 to name the Hemet High stadium for five years after John McDonough, the late longtime leader of the financial institution and a respected community leader. The term expired, but McDonough’s name remains on the outside of the stadium.

   I imagine the facility will be more commonly called Von Driska Field. The title will be painted across a scoreboard.

   Von Driska unquestionably lived a life worthy of the honor. The 1957 Hemet High grad played football during the era of the school’s big rivalry with San Jacinto High. He remained unhappy his entire life over a Bulldogs’ loss to the rival Tigers while he played.

   He served in the Peace Corps after graduating from La Verne College, now University of La Verne. He was a popular teacher with the Hemet Unified School District from 1966 to 2003. He coached football at Hemet High from 1966 until his death.

   He especially liked working with freshmen and junior varsity teams. He was an enthusiastic coach and teacher who always was an advocate for kids. He continued teaching for several years toward the end of his classroom career, even though he could have made about the same amount of money in retirement.

   He was a longtime board member 
of Valley-Wide Recreation and Park District and a lifelong booster of youth sports.

   I can’t think of a more apt name to use for the field. Lopez said the field’s new name will be dedicated when the Bulldogs play at home Sept. 12 against Hillcrest High from Riverside.

   Lopez is raising $3,000 needed for painting the scoreboard through the nonprofit Sportsman’s Club. Information about the fundraising effort is available by calling Lopez at 951-442-4040.

   Lopez said several members of the group, which serves as a booster of youth sports in the San Jacinto Valley, played for Von Driska. I am not surprised.

   Von Driska always was distressed when I called someone from Hemet a Hemetian. He frequently called to correct me that the name should be Hemetite. He even campaigned with historical groups in an effort to officially adopt the Hemetite name. I like Hemetian and will continue to use it except in one instance. When I write about the late Von Driska, it’s Hemetite.

   CONTACT THE WRITER:

   951-368-9078 or bpratte@pe.com 
COURTESY OF JOHN HILL

   Hemet High’s football field will be named after Darrell Von Driska, longtime teacher and coach.

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