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The Calistoga boys soccer team has been the definition of consistent the past four seasons.

Under the guidance of coach Danny Almanza, who took over as head coach in 2016, the Wildcats have had no trouble reaching double-digit wins. They won 16 games in each of his first two years on staff, and then won 13 in 2017 and 15 last season. They also reached the playoffs in each of those years.

But now a new leaf is turning over in Calistoga: Almanza resigned to take a job in the Bay Area in the spring, leaving the Wildcats without someone to lead their mighty ship.

Enter, Scott Hester, the Wildcats newly-hired head coach, who will look to fill the void Almanza left on the sidelines and work to keep Calistoga’s recent string of successful seasons alive this fall.

“I’m not going to try to reinvent the wheel,” Hester, 62, said recently. “I’m sure that the players all have their own idea at this point after they’ve played several years. A lot of these kids, this is probably the eighth or ninth year that they’ve played soccer, so they’re going to have a pretty good idea about what they want to do, what they want to accomplish, and all I want to do is continue that, continue their education about the game and give back to community and keep them excited and passionate about the game.”

Hester is relatively new to the Napa Valley area. He and his wife, Maureen, moved down from Arcata, where they called home for the last 30-plus years, back in January because she got a job with the Calistoga School District.

While this will be Hester’s first varsity coaching job, he is no stranger to the sport or to leading teams. He got into coaching at the youth level while living in Arcata and was heavily involved in the scene while his kids played growing up. He mainly coached younger kids but was on staff at Arcata High School on the JV level.

“As soon as I saw that there was a program available for both my kids and myself, I jumped right in with both feet,” he said. “It’s been a passion.”

Along the way, that passion for the game grew and he set out to make sure he was as prepared as he could be to lead the next generation.

“As I progressed, I took all the state certification tests to get a higher and higher ranking, then did some additional training with the Ziemer Brothers, they had some coaching clinics down here,” he said. “I’ve been coaching various levels of youth soccer for probably 15 years.”

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By the time he was done coaching his kids, his interest in the game had developed to the point where he wanted to be out on the field as much as he wanted to be on the sidelines. He joined a competitive men’s league team in town that traveled all over the state for games and tournaments.

“We had a town team that I was that traveled to Pleasanton, Sacramento, Las Vegas,” Hester said. “The men’s division we had was the most competitive team we had. I was on that for probably five or six years.”

He added, though, that it’s been about ten years since his last coaching gig. Still, his knowledge and background in the sport, as well as his passion for giving back to the community coupled with the growing need for a head boys coach, led him to offer his services to Co-Athletic Director Eric Heitz late in the summer.

Hester was officially hired after being approved by the Calistoga School Board on Aug. 5 and since then he’s set about to connect with returning players who were around for the summer.

As of last Monday, two days before school at Calistoga started, progressed had been slow. Hester reported that the most players they’d had attend a pickup practice session was seven, although he was optimistic they’d pull together a complete team once school got back in session.

As of Tuesday afternoon, a day before the Wildcats open their season against St. Helena, Heitz reported that the team may be a little “shorthanded” but will play against the Saints.

Hester is confident, though, that once they fill out their roster, they should once again be a talented and competitive team. He’s seen the talent the Napa Valley produces firsthand during travel tournament to the area when he was coaching at the youth level.

“They were always very competitive, and what I’ve seen here is nothing short of that,” he said. “They’re all very good players.”

At this point, it’s just about getting them out to the field.

“We’re looking for every kid that wants to play,” he said. “Everybody that wants to come out and play the game; competitive, not competitive, I’m open to anybody. If we can get the core group back that was here last year, that would be the biggest thing. But yeah, I’d like to have as many people that want to be out here that want to learn the game.”

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Sports Reporter

Gus Morris covers St. Helena and Calistoga sports for the Napa Valley Register. Before joining the Register in 2018, he covered collegiate sports for the student publication at the University of Oregon.