In front of hundreds of cheering fans, and as the night fell cold underneath the lit up Turlock sky, Steve Feaver took a dip into the swimming pool. With his clothes on.
Well, it was more like a forced dip, a sort of water polo’s take on the Gatorade bath popular in other sports. His Turlock High players wanted to congratulate him in what likely was his final home match at the facility named in his honor — the Steve Feaver Aquatic Center.
This was the proper ending for the architect of Turlock water polo.
He brought the sport to Turlock in 1973. Thirty-eight years later, he ended his home career in truly unforgettable fashion. His Bulldogs outdueled Pitman High 15-9 on Thursday night for a perfect 10-0 Central California Conference record this season, a 20-0 record in the past two seasons, back-to-back league championships and a 24-match league winning streak dating back to 2009.
Turlock’s home record at the new pool is 40-3 since 2007.
As of Thursday, Feaver’s career record is 749 overall wins — the most in the history of boys water polo in the Sac-Joaquin Section.
But wait, this season isn’t quite over yet.
The Bulldogs, as well as the Pride, will compete in the SJS Division I Tournament, which begins Nov. 5 at Johansen High in Modesto, so that’s why Feaver was hesitant to say too much about his impending coaching retirement from water polo.
Asked if Thursday was his last home match, Feaver said, “I hate to say anything right now because we still got playoffs, but in all probability, (yes).”
Then, he added, “I love the game, I love this team and I love the kids. They need to realize it’s not the coach who makes the difference. It’s what they learn and what they bring to the team. Each one of those kids who are juniors right now, they’re going to have a lot to bring back for the future, regardless of who the coach is.”
Before the season started, Feaver didn’t say for sure if he would call it quits after retiring from teaching two years ago. Of course, there’s no absolute certainty that he will not return next season. However, he has said all along that he’s a proud grandparent and he’d love spend more time with his grandchildren — teaching them some of the life lessons he has passed along to his players.
His current group of players wanted to make his final home match a special one.
And they sure had to earn it.
The Bulldogs (20-5, 10-0 CCC) only owned a two-goal lead with 4 minutes left in the third period. But after that, Morley Baker helped put away Pitman (7-3 CCC) with two consecutive goals to make it a 10-6 lead en route to a game-high four scores. Joel Geiger, Hunter Mangrum and Antovan Davtians each had three goals apiece, and goalkeeper Neil Wraske had another productive night with 10 saves.
With that, the Bulldogs ran their record to 15-3 over the Pride.
Pitman was once again a tough assignment. The last time the two teams met, the Pride controlled the match before losing 8-5 at home. They stayed with the Bulldogs again, but just didn’t have enough toward the end.
Beau Powell led the Pride with three goals and Tyler Jamieson and Quinten Day each added two, and goalkeeper Zach Hazelwood collected 12 saves. Pitman finished as the second seed in the CCC behind Turlock, as both squads are postseason-bound.
The Pride, in the end, knew what the night meant for the Bulldogs.
“I would like to congratulate Coach Feaver and his boys on a very successful season,” said Pitman coach Drew Clute, a former player of the legendary coach from 1998-2001. “Going undefeated two years in a row is tough to do in our conference. They should feel very proud.
“I would also like to thank him for all that he has done for the sport of water polo in the Central Valley in his 30-plus years of coaching.”
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.