Holman shifts into high gear

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Lily Holman (176) shifts into high gear to win the 100 at the MEL meet May 5.

Finishing second in the 200-meter dash May 5 at the Monticello Empire League track and field championships might have been just what Lily Holman needed. The Vacaville High School junior was reminded that anything less than her best will not be enough to survive two Sac-Joaquin Section meets and qualify for the state championships.

Holman made it through the section Division III meet last week and qualified in four events for the Masters, which begins Friday at Davis High. She won the 100 and 200, avenging her loss to Fairfield’s Mikelia Strong at the MEL meet. She contributed to the Bulldogs’ second-place finish in the 4×100 relay and placed fourth in the long jump.

The top six finishers in each event at Weston Ranch High in Stockton qualified for the Masters. That number will be cut in half this week with only the top three in each event earning tickets to the state meet May 27 and 28 at Buchanan High in Clovis. Holman deserved to go last year in the 4×100 relay with her sister Maya and the Oliver sisters, Aspin and Makayla. The four ranked first in the state, but they never had an opportunity to qualify for the state championships when the Masters was scratched.

And on top of that, Vacaville’s girls team was stripped of the MEL championship after it was determined a member of the team was ineligible. Last season was not a lost cause for Holman, however. Her sister and the Olivers counted on her to hold her own in the relay. The three seniors taught the sophomore what it will take to compete with the elite.

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Holman will need to put those lessons to good use Friday when she competes in the preliminaries for the 100, 200 and 4×100 relay. Her best shot to reach the state meet should be the 200. Holman ranks third in the section with a time of 24.72 seconds, according to www.Athletic.net. She is ranked fourth in the long jump and is tied for fifth in the 100. The relay team has little chance of advancing despite setting a season-best time of 49.84 seconds at the Division III meet. Three teams have cracked 48 seconds – Lincoln (46.60) and St. Mary’s (47.09) of Stockton and Lodi (47.68). Armijo is ranked fourth at 48.17, a school record.

By comparison, the Holmans and Olivers sat atop the state rankings in 2021 with a school-record time of 47.55. That was then. This is now for Holman, who can count on just one person to reach the state meet. That would be the same person she sees in the mirror each morning. Barring a miracle in the relay, she will have to make it on her own.

That actually suits Holman, who thinks of a race as a competition against herself as much as against Strong or any other runner. She knows what to do and if she does it, the results will take care of themselves. Holman admits to having a bad habit of starting slow. She keeps her head down for the first 20 meters or so. If Holman is leading when she lifts her head and opens her stride, the only race after that is for second place.

The mistake she made against Strong in the 200 at the MEL meet was letting Strong use the curve to her advantage. Strong is is the top-ranked 400 runner in the section, so she is adept at navigating the curves. Holman prevented that from happening again at the Division III meet by bolting from the blocks and attacking the curve to get out front. As in the 100, there is little chance she will be caught once her legs shift into high gear.

The 200 is tricky with the staggered start. There will be four heats Friday and the winner of each will advance to the finals along with the four runners with the next best times. Holman does not need win her heat to advance (she is the only runner in her heat to crack 25 seconds), but doing so will put her in a middle lane and allow her to keep an eye on the inside runners trying to overcome the stagger before the straightaway.

Holman will plenty of time between her three events Friday to plot strategy for each. Her heats are at 4:08 p.m. for the 4×100 relay, 5:46 for the 100 and 7:33 for the 200. She prefers to keep to herself between events and rarely sits down on the field or in the bleachers.

“I try to be alone,” Holman said. “I just want to think about my races. I try to get my head in the right place.”

If it is, she will be as well.

She takes a parachute to class

Apples fall far from trees and then there is Hailey Brunkal. The 2019 Vacaville High School graduate could be on her way to becoming an Air Force pilot just like her stepfather and sister, but she would rather jump out of a plane than try to fly it. Apples do not have far to go when they drop. When Brunkal falls, it could be from as high as 17,000 feet.

At least the 20-year-old managed to stay aboard the plane that transported the Air Force Academy’s skydiving demonstration team to perform at Wings Over Solano at Travis Air Force Base. Brunkal and her Wings of Blue teammates were scheduled to jump Saturday and Sunday, but high winds on Sunday forced them to put away their parachutes.

Hailey Brunkal

Her sister Melissa also went through the Airmanshop 490 class at the academy and became a certified jumpmaster. The 23-year-old was a senior when Brunkal arrived in Colorado Springs and helped her little sister understand why skydiving does more than teach a cadet how to overcome fear. It also turns a cadet such as Brunkal into a leader.

Brunkal has had to earn respect of her classmates so they will trust her with their lives. Skydiving has taught Brunkal how to conquer her fears. Serving as an Air Force officer will test her ability to keep those in her charge going when the going gets tough.

“You have to learn to do something uncomfortable,” Brunkal explained. “In Airmanship 490, you train 40 hours on the ground and then your first jump is solo. You have to pull the rip cord yourself. I can’t say I loved skydiving at first. It was terrifying. (Skydiving) demands respect. Now I can breathe and feel excited instead of being really, really scared.”

Fear struck Brunkal long before she received an appointment to the academy. She was afraid that following in her sister’s footsteps would make nothing more than a copycat. Her heart was set on attending the academy after touring the campus as an eighth-grader, but the thought did cross her mind that she might be better off by going her own way.

“I wondered if I should have had that moment – is this really for me?” she said. “I looked at West Point and the Navy, but I guess I’m a product of my environment. I came to the conclusion that the Air Force was for me. I wasn’t going to diverge from the family tradition.”

And now there is no place she would rather be. Her schedule is so demanding that she rarely gets to come home, but she is not without family. Cadets who jump out of perfectly good planes together also stick together when their feet – and nerves – are safe on terra firm.

“We’re tight-knit. This is my second family,” Brunkal said “I love being with them.”

Brunkal certainly spends plenty of time with her teammates. Start with six hours each weekday and another eight on Saturday. “It’s a big time commitment. That’s why so many people have reservations about doing it,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.”

Something else is on the horizon for Brunkal, however. Her skydiving days are numbered. Her career as an Air Force officer will be in medicine. She will leave the skies to her sister, who was recently assigned to be a C-17 pilot at Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu.

Brunkal’s final jump will be when she graduates from the academy with the rank of second lieutenant on June 1, 2023. Brunkal and the other senior skydivers will be wearing their dress uniforms – and parachutes – when they arrive from the sky to the commencement.

Now that’s going out in style.

Putting their best feet forward

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Hailey Wurzbach won the 800 and 1,600 to set the pace for Vacaville’s girls.

Raise your hand if you are surprised that Vacaville High School swept the varsity and junior varsity team competitions Friday at the Monticello Empire League track and field championships. Now take that hand and slap yourself across the face because you should have known better. The Bulldogs won the varsity boys title by 108 points and the junior varsity boys by 123. The girls competition was slightly closer with Vacaville claiming the varsity title by 86 points and the junior varsity by 90. So much for suspense.





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Vacaville High junior Lily Holman won the 100 and finished second in the 200.



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Wood freshman Michael Ferro swept the junior varsity 110 and 300 hurdles.

Who will be QB for UC Davis?

Miles Hastings (7) is one of six quarterbacks auditioning to start for UC Davis.

Dan Hawkins has no patience for quarterbacks who are careless with the football. His son can attest to that. Cody was the starting quarterback at Colorado in 2009 when he was benched by his father are throwing two interceptions in a 38-14 loss to Texas. Those turnovers contributed to the Longhorns outscoring the Buffaloes 35-0 in the second half.

Quarterback Miles Hastings has tested Hawkins’ patience at UC Davis. Hawkins had it easy in his first three seasons after returning to coach at his alma mater. His return coincided with quarterback Jake Maier’s transfer from Long Beach City College. Maier passed for a school-record 11,163 yards and 88 touchdowns in three seasons with the Aggies. He was the Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Year in 2018 after leading UC Davis to a share of the conference championship and its first FCS playoff berth.

Maier’s departure after the 2019 season left the Aggies in search of a new leader behind center. The search has continued into 2022 and through two weeks of spring practice. Hawkins and his son, who is the Aggies offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, will get their last look at the six quarterback candidates in Saturday’s scrimmage until the Aggies reconvene in August to begin preparations for the Sept. 3 opener at Cal.

Hunter Rodrigues would have been the seventh candidate had he not opted to graduate early with a year of eligibility remaining. He would have had the edge in experience over the other hopefuls after starting all five games last spring and six of 12 in the fall. There was nothing to suggest Rodrigues was in jeopardy of losing the job until he sustained a concussion on a 5-yard run in the fourth quarter at Weber State on Sept. 25.

Trent Tompkins

Hastings came off the bench and to the offense’s rescue by playing with the poise of a senior despite being just a freshman. He completed seven of nine passes for 50 yards as the Aggies went 56 yards in 13 plays to take a 17-14 lead with 27 seconds to play. Trent Tompkins replaced Hastings and scored on a 1-yard plunge to cap the drive that lasted more than six minutes. UC Davis safety Erron Duncan sealed the victory with an interception on the first play of Weber State’s ensuing possession.

With Rodrigues sitting out the following week, Hastings started against Idaho and the offense sputtered with 13 points in three quarters. Tompkins took a few snaps in the first three quarters before taking over in the fourth. He accounted for every yard in a 62-yard drive that he capped by lofting a 10-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jared Harrell. Tompkins completed all three of his passes for 34 yards and added two runs for 28.

UC Davis took the lead at 27-20 with 8:05 to play when wide receiver Carson Crawford took a pitch from Tompkins and tossed a 30-yard touchdown pass to tight end McCallan Castles.

As they did against Idaho, the Aggies scored 14 points in the fourth quarter at Idaho State the following week. Those points did nothing more than make the game appear closer than it was. Rodrigues started and struggled, completing as many passes to the Bengals (two) as he did to his teammates. Idaho State turned those two interceptions into 10 points in building a 24-3 halftime lead on its way to a 27-17 victory.

The game was intriguing if for no other reason than Hawkins’ decision to go with Tompkins’ legs instead of Hastings’ arm when Rodrigues was sent to the bench after throwing his second interception on the first play of the second quarter with UC Davis trailing 14-0.

Hastings got his chance on the Aggies’ first possession in the third quarter, threw an interception on second-and-9 at Idaho State’s 16-yard line after UC Davis marched 59 yards in 12 plays and was never seen again that day. At least Rodrigues got the opportunity to throw a second interception before he got the hook from Hawkins.

Such an exit was nothing new for Hastings. The difference was his departure against Idaho State was not scripted. Hastings was told last March that he would get the third possession against Cal Poly. “Whether we went down and scored or not, (Rodrigues) was going to go back in,” recalled Hastings, who did not keep Rodrigues out for long by throwing an interception that the Mustangs returned for a touchdown and a 10-7 lead.

“Obviously, that was not how I wanted it to go,” Hastings said. “It’s football. Bad plays happen. It’s a matter of how you come back from that and shake it off.”

Hastings did get a second chance, although getting his number called with UC Davis leading 59-17 was not the best situation to show what he can do. Hastings did complete all four of his passes for 50 yards and a touchdown, but you have to wonder if Cal Poly expected UC Davis would be throwing with such a lopsided lead.

There is nothing wrong with running the ball when a game is well out of hand. Four minutes after Hastings threw his first touchdown pass with the Aggies, Tompkins scored on an 86-yard dash to make it 73-17. Tompkins was the Aggies second-leading rusher last fall with 477 yards and tied Ulonzo Gilliam for the team lead in rushing touchdowns with six.

One can throw (hopefully only to his teammates). The other can run. And there are four other candidates, with the latest being transfer Jack Newman from San Francisco City College. All Newman did last fall was pass for 3,583 yards and 38 touchdowns as the Rams finished 13-0. He did throw six interceptions, so the other UC Davis candidates should never count themselves out.

In the words of Lloyd Christmas, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance.”

Jace finds his place with Rams

Imagine how many times Jace Todd has been left out because he has special needs. Dixon High’s baseball team has changed that by accepting the junior – so much so that Jace was the leadoff batter for the Rams in Monday’s game against Laguna Creek at Sutter Health Park in Sacramento. And once he hit the ball, there was no stopping him. Jace raced around the bases and was greeted by the Rams after scoring. Jace is special because the Rams think of him as one of them.

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Bulldogs win duel for dual title

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Tyler Riley did his part Saturday as Vacaville High School’s wrestling team claimed the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I dual championship. The Bulldogs defeated Del Oro to advance to the championship match against Oakdale and then mauled the Mustangs 41-19 to add another blue section banner to their evergrowing collection.

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Qusai Marini
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Logan Kuehl



Receiver’s Kupp runneth over

Quincy Forte was worth a trip to San Luis Obispo in 2013 to see Eastern Washington play Cal Poly. The Vacaville High graduate started at running back for the Eagles, and former Folsom High star Dano Graves played quarterback for the Mustangs. Neither was the most captivating player in the game, however.

Cooper Kupp, an unheralded freshman with Eastern Washington, stole the show in the Eagles’ 35-22 victory. You have probably heard of him by now. Kupp had eight receptions for 139 yards and two touchdowns that day. He averaged 107 receptions and 1,616 receiving yards in each of his four college seasons. He scored 21 touchdowns as a freshman and had 73 in his career.

Cooper Kupp (photo courtesy of Eastern Washington University)

Beau Baldwin was the coach at Eastern Washington during Kupp’s time in Cheney and is now in his third year at Cal Poly after three seasons as the offensive coordinator at Cal. Baldwin is not at all surprised by what Kupp is doing these days, but he does admit it is unusual for a player who was only recruited by Eastern Washington and Idaho State to be setting the NFL on fire.

“(Kupp) was a little bit of a late bloomer. He was an underdeveloped kid,” Baldwin explained. “We had been following him since his sophomore year (at Davis High in Yakima, Wash.). He used to come to our football camps. He hadn’t sprouted yet as a junior, but he made a big jump as a senior.”

Kupp has to rank as a big reason why the Los Angeles Rams will face the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. The Rams were 0-2 in the regular season against the 49ers even though the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Kupp had 20 receptions for 240 yards and a touchdown in those two games. Those numbers contributed to Kupp becoming just the fourth player in the Super Bowl era to claim the receiving triple crown by leading the league in receptions with 145, receiving yards with 1,947 and receiving touchdowns with 16.

The other players to wear the receiving triple crown were Jerry Rice (1990), Sterling Sharpe (1992) and Steve Smith Sr. (2005). You have surely heard of them. Rice and Sharpe were first-round draft picks by the 49ers in 1985 and Green Bay Packers in 1988, respectively. Smith and Kupp were both drafted in the third round, Smith by the Carolina Panthers in 2001 and Kupp by the Rams in 2017. Smith was discounted because he is just 5-foot-9. Kupp was sold short because Eastern Washington is not a football factory even though the Eagles were the FCS national champions in 2010.

“We had a good tradition,” Baldwin said of his nine seasons at Eastern Washington. “(Kupp) added to that tradition.”

NFL scouts expressed their doubts about Kupp after he was clocked at 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the 2017NFL Combine. Bucky Brooks, an NFL analyst, said at the time that Kupp would not amount to anything more than a third receiver with any team. Baldwin went to bat for Kupp and came out swinging.

“I got into arguments with scouts, about him,” Baldwin recalled. “You don’t put him in spikes on a track. These aren’t the Spandex Olympics. Put him in football pads and a helmet and see what he can do.”

We have.

Vanden QB saves best for last

Tre Dimes would like to apologize to Vanden High School football fans for taking so long to get his act together Saturday night. Adrenaline and nerves got the best of the quarterback through the first three quarters of the state Division 3-AA championship game. And Aquinas did not do the junior any favors by flushing him out of the pocket and forcing him to throw on the run.

His yellow mouthpiece with black fangs absorbed the brunt of Dimes’ frustration. He chewed on it like a cow chomping on cud. The Vikings trailed 13-0 entering the fourth quarter after averaging 58 points in four playoff games. Dimes had thrown four or more touchdown passes in six consecutive games.

Vanden did not need 58 points or four touchdown passes from Dimes to win its first state championship. All the Vikings had to do was keep the faith in their quarterback because he has rarely let them down. Dimes regained his mojo in the final seven minutes to lead Vanden to a thrilling 14-13 victory.

“He’s our No. 1 on offense,” guard Blake Waldrop said of Dimes. “He gets us going.”

Vacaville has been the only team to hold Vanden to fewer than 20 points this season in posting a 35-17 victory Oct. 15 that propelled the Bulldogs to the Monticello Empire League title. Once that crown slipped through the Vikings’ fingers, they set their sights on bringing home the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV title. They got it by mauling Merced 49-21 in Stockton and then rolled to a 56-21 rout at Windsor in the Northern California Regional.

Nothing was that easy against Aquinas.

Time was running out on the Vikings when Dimes broke the goose egg by lofting a 13-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jamai East with 6:31 to play. Aquinas was forced to punt on its ensuing possession after Vanden linebacker Orion Null broke into the backfield to take down Jusyis Solis on third-and-7.

“The pressure was on,” Null said as he was mobbed by his family on the field after the game. “I had to do my job and make a play.” Not only did his play force Aquinas to relinquish the ball, but it also allowed Vanden to avoid using its last two timeouts on defense to save precious seconds for the offense.

East’s first touchdown came on a fade pattern to the right corner of the end zone. His second with 1:08 to play epitomized his connection with Dimes. East drove cornerback Cesar Fernandez into the end zone, stopped on a dime as Fernandez was still backpedaling and broke left. Dimes rolled to his right, planted his back foot and fired a strike to East to tie the score.

Diego Nunez-Smith followed with the biggest extra-point kick in the history of high school extra-point kicks to put Vanden ahead. East sealed the deal for the Vikings with an interception. And by the way, he also blocked the Falcons’ extra-point attempt after their second touchdown in the third quarter.

Daniel Hughes’ helmet

Dimes is at his best when he can set his feet and unleash his right arm. The Falcons made every effort to not let that happen during the first 36 minutes by putting pressure right in Dimes’ face. Dimes showed signs of panic by not keeping his eyes on his receivers and instead looking to see what trouble was coming his way. Dimes was sacked six times in the first three quarters and bounced a few passes as if he was playing point guard in basketball.

Offensive coordinator Joel “Blue” Isaac had to find a way to snap Dimes out of his funk, so he took the quarterback aside on the sideline for a face-to-face conversation. Had Isaac been chewing gum, Dimes would have known the flavor.

“I told him there’s 11 guys on the field. It’s not all on your shoulders,” Isaac said. “I knew he knew it, but I just reiterated it.”

A 13-0 deficit in a state championship game is nothing compared to the loss the Vikings suffered last April when junior Daniel Hughes died after a shooting. The Vikings will never forget how hard Hughes worked and how he demanded everyone else wearing a jersey to do the same. There was no quit in Hughes, so the Vikings refuse to surrender even when it appears all is lost.

“Daniel never stopped fighting no matter what the score was,” Dimes said. “We had to fight through this game. He would be so proud of us.”

That he is.

Hornets, Aggies earn honors

UC Davis coach Dan Hawkins had much more on his mind Tuesday than trying to find out how many of his Aggies were selected to the All-Big Sky Conference team. The Aggies are taking a crash course on South Dakota State in preparation for facing the Jackrabbits in the first round of the FCS playoffs on Saturday in Brookings, S.D. Even after Hawkins learned 12 players were honored, he did not jump out of his seat at his weekly press conference and celebrate.

“For every head coach who goes through the all-conference selection committee, it’s unbelievable,” Hawkins said. “There’s a lot of bartering that goes on and a lot of arguing. Life’s not fair, football’s not fair and in many cases all-conference teams are not fair. I’ve been doing this a long time and all-conference teams are always a head-scratcher. And they’ll probably continue to be.”

Josiah Erickson (44)

Three UC Davis players were named to the first team – guard Jake Parks, cornerback Brandon Perryman and running back Ulonzo Gilliam Jr. Big Sky champion Sacramento State had six first-team selections – wide receiver Pierre Williams, tight end Marshel Martin, center Thomas Parker, defensive end Josiah Erickson, kicker Kyle Sentkowski and all-purpose player Asher O’Hara.

Five Sacramento State players were second-team selections – offensive tackle Kooper Richardson, guard Brandon Weldon, outside linebacker Marte Mapu, inside linebacker Marcus Hawkins and cornerback Munchie Filer III. Richardson played three seasons at UC Davis and came to Sacramento State as a graduate transfer to play for his father Kris and with his brother Kaden.

UC Davis swept the second-team selections picks for special teams with punter Dan Whelan, kicker Isaiah Gomez, kick returner Lan Larison, punt returner Isaiah Thomas and all-purpose player Trent Tompkins,. Other second-team picks for the Aggies were tight end McCallan Castles, center Connor Pettek, defensive tackle Bryce Rodgers and safety Jaylin White. Sacramento State had five third-team selections – quarterback Jake Dunniway, running back Cameron Skattebo, cornerback Malik Jeter and punter Sam Clark. Defensive tackle Jett Stanley was honorable mention.

The Hornets are the No. 4 seed in the FCS playoffs and await the winner of the UC Davis-South Dakota State game in the second round on Dec. 4 at Hornet Stadium. UC Davis would welcome another shot at Sacramento State after the Hornets rolled to a 27-7 rout in the 67th annual Causeway Classic. Sacramento State has won the past two Causeway clashes and would likely be riding a three-game winning streak against UC Davis had the Hornets played last spring.

Plenty on line in Causeway

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Miles Hastings will start at quarterback for UC Davis in the Causeway Classic.

Much more than bragging rights will be at stake Saturday when UC Davis hosts Sacramento State in the 67th edition of the Causeway Classic. This will be the third consecutive meeting of the rivals with a piece of the Big Sky Conference championship on the line. The Aggies shared the title in 2018, the Hornets did the same two years ago and Sacramento State can claim the crown outright Saturday with a victory and a Montana State loss to Montana.

Montana State kicks off two hours before the Causeway Classic beings at 1 p.m., so the Hornets should know by halftime if they have a chance to have the title all to themselves. The Causeway Classic is hardly a road game for the visiting team, but Sacramento State has not lost a Big Sky game away from Hornet Stadium since Troy Taylor signed a seven-year contract to become the Hornets coach in 2019. The Hornets are 7-0 on the Big Sky road with one of their victories just so happening to come at Montana State in 2019

Sacramento State is riding a seven-game winning streak, its longest in 55 years, with all of those victories coming against Big Sky opponents. The Hornets dropped two of their three nonconference games, including a 42-30 loss at Cal on Sept. 18. Sacramento State also lost to Northern Iowa, which at the time was ranked 15th in the FCS Top 25. The Panthers fell out of the rankings this week but could be one of 13 teams to receive at-large berths to the FCS playoffs. The 24-team bracket will be announced at 9:30 a.m. Sunday on ESPNU.

UC Davis (5-2 Big Sky, 8-2 overall) fell four spots to No. 10 in the rankings after losing 38-20 to Eastern Washington last Saturday. A Top 10 spot should be enough to get the Aggies an at-large berth into the playoffs regardles of Saturday’s outcome. Sacramento State (7-0, 8-2) is No. 11 and will be the Big Sky’s automatic qualifier with a victory and a Montana State loss. If both the Hornets and Bobcats lose, Sacramento State will receive the automatic bid by virtue of its 28-21 victory Oct. 16 at Montana, which at the time was ranked No. 5. The Grizzlies are currently No. 7, two spots below Eastern Washington.

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Eric Barriere

The Big Sky should have five teams in the playoffs and there is a good chance two of them will meet at some point. That happened in 2019 with Weber State defeating Montana in the quarterfinals. Sacramento State was seeded fourth two years ago, drew a first-round bye and then lost to Austin Peay. UC Davis and Eastern Washington met in the second round in 2018, four weeks after the Aggies lost 59-20 to the Eagles on Nov. 10 in Cheney. UC Davis returned to Cheney for the playoff rematch and lost 34-29 when Eastern Washington’s Sam McPherson scored on a 35-yard run with 26 seconds to play.

Eastern Washington has continued to have its way with UC Davis. Last Saturday’s victory was the Eagles’ 10th in as many meetings with the Aggies. Quarterback Eric Barriere has personally seen to maintaining the Eagles’ superiority. In four games against UC Davis, Barriere has thrown for 1,324 yards and 10 touchdowns. The redshirt senior was at it again last Saturday in Davis by throwing for 411 yards and three touchdowns without being sacked. That was a standard performance for Barriere, who passed for 600 yards and seven touchdowns in the Eagles’ 71-21 victory over Idaho on Oct. 16.

UC Davis coach Dan Hawkins tipped his figurative cap to Barriere last Saturday. “He’s a generational talent. He could play at any level and play well,” Hawkins said. “As I told our team and him, I have had the fortune or misfortune of playing against a number of Heisman Trophy winners and (Heisman) finalists. (Barriere is) as dominant a player as anyone I’ve played against. You’re not going to shut him down. You just try to limit what he can do.”

Wrestling with Sacramento State’s tag team of quarterbacks should prove much easier for UC Davis than trying to take down Barriere. Taylor plays to the respective strengths of Jake Dunniway (2,051 yards passing and 11 touchdowns) and Asher O’Hara (a team-high 593 yards rushing and eight touchdowns).

Hawkins has done the same at UC Davis with redshirt freshmen Miles Hastings (920 yards passing and six touchdowns) and Trent Tompkins (420 yards rushing and six touchdowns) taking turns. Hunter Rodrigues started the first four games this season after starting all five games last spring. The junior has not been the same since sustaining a concussion at Weber State on Sept. 25. He missed the Idaho game and was benched after tossing two interceptions in the first half of a 27-17 loss at Idaho State on Oct. 9.

Two more interceptions against Northern Colorado on Oct. 16 convinced Hawkins to go with Hastings, who has started the past three games. Hawkins has not lost faith in Rodrigues even thought Rodrigues has lost the starting job. “I think for a variety of reasons he was pressing,” Hawkins said. “I felt bad because it had to be hard for him. But as my dad told me a long time ago, life is not fair and either is football. Humility before honor – I get it.”