Time turned its back on Vacaville High School Friday night in Stockton. A 38-point deficit in the third quarter took care of that, making the scoreboard operator’s job much easier because he no longer had to stop the clock with St. Mary’s on its way to a lopsided win.
The agony of such a defeat was nothing new for the Bulldogs and their supporters. Vacaville’s time in the 2022 Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoffs was also cut short in a 42-0 loss to Manteca. The Bulldogs are 6-10 in the postseason with just one semifinal appearance in the past 12 seasons.
There is always next season, but is there any reason to believe the Bulldogs will fare much better after losing several key seniors? And to think the junior varsity team’s 10-0 finish this season will bode for a brighter future for the varsity squad is a bit of a reach.
On top of all that, Vacaville finished second in the Monticello Empire League for the first time since the MEL was realigned in 2017 after Napa and Vintage departed. The 2023 season ended abruptly with the Bulldogs having nothing to show for all their perseverance.
The varsity team ruled the roost in the MEL for six seasons even when the junior varsity did not follow suit. And replacing the likes of Cristian Diosdado, Massimo Menicou, Mills Sweany, Jemeir Buckner and Justin Albrecht could very well be a mission impossible.
Folks in Vacaville chuckled in 2021 when Vanden won the 3-AA state title because the Bulldogs pounded the Vikings 35-17. Vanden snapped Vacaville’s 28-game MEL winning streak on Oct. 6 with a 24-9 victory at Tom Zunino Stadium. The Vikings pulled off the upset with junior quarterback Kalani Mcleod throwing for 388 yards and two touchdowns.
Mcleod will return in 2024 with an opportunity to become a two-time MEL Player of the Year. Will C. Wood will also be set at quarterback with Kimani Dokes coming back as a junior. Dokes threw for 1,400 yards and rushed for 647 in his first season with the Wildcats.
Quarterback is just one of several positions the Bulldogs will have to fill. The MEL will change again when two schools (Armijo and Fairfield) leave in 2024 and three (Pioneer, River City and Sacramento) arrive. Sacramento and Pioneer made the playoffs this season in Divisions IV and V, respectively. Both teams were knocked out Friday night.
For the Bulldogs to dismiss those teams because they qualified in lower divisions would be a mistake. Vacaville fans should have learned the lesson after mocking Vanden in 2021.