BEFORE DYING, VON DRISKA HEARD ABOUT RENAMING FIELD

BOB PRATTE

   STAFF COLUMNIST
   Shortly before he died last year, Darrell Von Driska heard about the idea to rename the Hemet High football field after him.

   He was deservedly pleased. The retired teacher, who didn’t stop coaching until his death at age 74, spent a career inspiring Hemet High football players.

   With his family and many friends in attendance, the Hemet High gridiron will be renamed Von Driska Field during a ceremony at halftime of the Bulldogs’ 7 p.m. home football game Friday against Hillcrest High of Riverside.

   The idea of naming the field after Von Driska was led by assistant coach Bob Lopez. He had support from Hemet High Principal Emily Shaw and fellow coaches on the staff.

   The renaming idea was discussed by Hemet High coaches while Von Driska was terminally ill.

   “We are so very excited for this. We told my dad before his passing that the 
field would be named after him,” his stepdaughter, Tracy Dotinga, wrote. “My dad would be just overwhelmed with joy if he was here with us.”

   Von Driska Field will appear in painted letters across the scoreboard.

   Von Driska, a 1957 Hemet High grad, played football at the school and, after graduating from what was then called LaVerne College and serving in the Peace Corps, returned home to teach at various schools in the Hemet Unified School District. He coached football at Hemet High from 1966 until he died of an aggressive form of cancer.

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

   I can’t think of a more fitting honor than the name Von Driska Field. I’m glad he was told about the idea before he died.

   THE OTHER VONDRISKA

   Liza Vondriska, the student government assistant at West Valley High in Hemet, is asked about the field naming. People think she was related to the coach.

   When she uses a credit card to make a purchase, workers at stores and restaurants also ask if she is a relative and tell her that he was an amazing teacher and coach.

   Vondriska was not related, but she was close to Von Driska. His picture is on her office wall.

   When she moved to the San Jacinto Valley in 2002, Von Driska called because he was curious about her name and wondered if they were related. They weren’t. 
She said he began calling her home regularly when he learned her then-husband, John Vondriska, was a Marine serving in Afghanistan. He called weekly to see if she and her two daughters, Brittney and Elizabeth, were OK.

   They met after her husband returned from war. Von Driska began attending her daughters’ school events.

   “He became almost part of the family,” said Vondriska, who now is single. “Last time we saw him was when Elizabeth graduated from high school in June.”

   She’s excited about the Hemet High football field naming, but she won’t be able to attend. She’ll be busy at work during West Valley High’s homecoming football game.

   “He used to come by and visit,” she said. “I miss him.”

   CONTACT THE WRITER:

   951-368-9078 or

   bpratte@pe.com 
COURTESY OF JOHN HILL, HEMET HIGH

   The late Darrell Von Driska, a longtime teacher and coach in Hemet.

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