Goal-oriented Apocotos a true Warrior | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Goal-oriented Apocotos a true Warrior

Steve Yingling

Editor’s note: This article is the first in a four-part series honoring the male and female athletes of the year at Whittell and South Tahoe high schools.

Flash back to the middle of February and Whittell High School’s Dusty Apocotos is preparing for the final game of his outstanding Warrior athletic career. The gym is fuller than normal, capitalizing on the last chance to see the smooth-shooting senior who thrives on competition.

Stoically out of the locker room for warm-ups comes the 6-foot-1 Apocotos, looking more like a pirate than a basketball player. The protective patch covering his left eye is a reminder of the untimely poke in the eye that spoiled a late-season playoff surge.

School administrators didn’t want him to play, but it was a decision that was left up to him. Not caring about how he looked, Apocotos started and performed well in his final athletic chapter at Whittell, underscoring the character and competitiveness he demonstrated during his successful prep career.

Coupled with his MVP season for the state’s third-best soccer team, Apocotos has earned the Tahoe Daily Tribune’s Whittell Male Athlete of the Year Award.

“I didn’t want to go out feeling that helpless. It was so weird because I had no depth perception or anything,” said Apocotos, who was poked in the eye by a Manogue player earlier in the week, causing double vision. “I think I was able to play my last game just because it was my home court. I knew it so well. I don’t know if I would have been able to get into the flow of the game had it been in another gym.”

Steve Maltase, who coached Apocotos in both soccer and basketball, didn’t feel empowered to decide the lefty’s playing fate.

“There was no real reason for him to play except he wanted to. I wasn’t going to take that away from him. I left it up to him,” Maltase said. “His desire and competitiveness show how much sports mean to him and how important his team is to him.”

The unnatural ending was the antithesis to a joyous November march of Apocotos and his Warrior soccer teammate to the Nevada 3A Division II title and an appearance in the state semifinals against powerful Truckee.

“It almost ended up being a perfect season, with the absence of a state championship. We overachieved for the team we had. Everyone stepped up and it was pleasing that the coaches chose me MVP, some of my buddies got first team, Todd Echan was defensive player of the year and my coach got coach of the year. It was pretty much an ideal season,” Apocotos said.

His aggressiveness and enthusiasm served him well on the offensive side of the soccer field as he scored 22 goals to lead all Nevada 3A Division II players.

“For the past two years I believe he’s been the best player in the state,” Maltase said. “People rallied around him because it was kind of his aura. He made everybody around him better, and he was somebody you always knew would be there. He didn’t miss any practices. Until his senior basketball season he probably didn’t miss a game in any sport.”

Some of his opponents talked about how rough he was in an admirable way. They respected what they didn’t have: his fearless competitive spirit.

Apocotos attributes his aggressive nature to his older brothers Devon, 20, and Damon, 22.

“I hate to lose, and I have to attribute that to my older brothers. I used to get beat up all the time, and they used to knock me around,” he said. “Now I know no one is going to hit me any harder than my brothers did. When I get on the field I’m going to (the action). I’m not going to back down from anybody. I don’t care if they’re bigger than me or smaller than me.”

A consistent scorer in double figures throughout his four-year basketball career, Apocotos was slowed at the outset of the basketball season because of a turned ankle. The three-point specialist and passing leader didn’t find his rhythm until late in the season, hitting four three-pointers in the first quarter in a crucial game with first-place Bishop Manogue in Reno. But with only seconds remaining in the first half, the untimely poke found his left eye, and with Apocotos on the bench the Warriors blew a double-digit lead in the second half. The injury forced him to miss the next division contest, effectively ending the Warriors’ playoff hopes.

“Basketball season was fun, but it also was a disappointment,” Apocotos said. “When we played well and put it all together, no one could touch us. We had a state championship-quality team. Injuries and other little things, and we just didn’t put it all together.”

Like he did as a junior, Apocotos spent the spring honing his soccer skills with his Reno United club team. The club recently won the state cup and will compete at regionals later this month.

“I just love soccer. I grew up with it, and it’s one of the funnest sports I’ve ever played. It’s so competitive and challenging, and I want to play it at the next level,” he said.

To accomplish that feat, Apocotos must walk on at UC-Davis. He tried out for the team earlier in the year and is convinced he can play college soccer.

But if soccer doesn’t pan out, he has a backup plan.

“I might end up kicking for their football team,” said Apocotos, who learned the art of placekicking from his grandfather, renowned kicking coach Ray Pelfrey. “I’ve been going to his camps since I was 11. I’ve always kicked for fun. But I went to one of his camps a few weeks ago and I was kicking pretty well.”

To put it modestly.

Apocotos converted several boots from 55 yards – the range of an NFL kicker.

“My grandfather says I have the potential and could beat out the Davis kicker. I’d rather play soccer, but if something doesn’t work out or if I could get a scholarship kicking, then I might do that,” he said.

While sports are his true passion, Apocotos made certain that his academics were given equal attention at Whittell.

“I’ve always stayed on top of my work. I always had to really concentrate and put my academics first to make sure I was eligible to play sports,” said Apocotos, who carries a 3.87 grade-point average and a senior class rating of fifth into his final week of schooling. He intends to major in computer science at Davis.

Apocotos’ advice to future Whittell student-athletes is “don’t set your heart on one thing right away because it’s high school and you have to have fun. If you set your heart on just one thing and you dedicate your life to it, you’ll regret it in the long run. You have to have fun.”

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