Little suspense in MEL football

Welcome to the annual race for second place, otherwise known as football in the Monticello Empire League. Let’s cut to the chase and concede the 2023 championship to Vacaville High without making the Bulldogs play five games.

Vacaville has won six consecutive MEL titles, so the only suspense each season is which team will take second. And even that has not been exciting with Vanden finishing as the runner-up in each of the past five seasons.

Tanner Donaldson contributed to the Bulldogs’ success as a player and now hopes to do as an assistant coach.

Will C. Wood was second in 2017, the first season after Napa and Vintage left the league. Vanden and Fairfield joined the MEL when the Superior California Athletic Conference folded.

Vanden is the only MEL team to come within 20 points of Vacaville in three of the past four years.  The Vikings lost 35-17 to the Bulldogs two years ago, their last loss on their way to the state 3-AA championship.

If Vanden lost twice to Vacaville with Tre Dimes at quarterback, what chance do the Vikings stand  without him? 

Will C. Wood lost 34-31 to Vacaville in 2018, three years after the Wildcats humbled the Bulldogs in a 49-26 victory. The Bulldogs’ last MEL loss was 28-21 to Napa in 2016. Vacaville has won 27 consecutive MEL games since then.

Vacaville’s average margin of victory during that winning streak is 33.6 points. That includes a 40-10 victory against Napa in 2017, a parting gift for the only team that could give Vacaville a run for the money.

The 2023 MEL season kicks off Friday night with Vacaville welcoming Rodriguez to Tom Zunino Stadium, Fairfield traveling to Wood and Vanden visiting Armijo. The closest the Mustangs have come against the Bulldogs was a 49-42 loss in 2008. 

Rodriguez has come within 30 points of Vacaville twice in 14 meetings since then. The Bulldogs’ average margin of victory against the Mustangs is 40 points,  including three games decided by 50 or more .

Armijo is the only unbeaten team at 5-0, but three of the Royals’ victories have come against teams with a combined record of 1-14. Fairfield’s five opponents are a combined 7-16. The Falcons did manage to beat Davis 27-26, but let’s not forget the Blue Devils were routed 43-0 by the Bulldogs in the first week.

Two of Wood’s three victories have come against 0-6 Sacramento and 0-5 Dixon by a total of 14 points. Armijo routed Dixon 42-7 two weeks after the Rams gave the Wildcats all they could handle in a 19-8 loss.

Vacaville can afford to look ahead to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs because no MEL team will pose a threat to the Bulldogs’ reign. The playoffs have not been kind to the Bulldogs, who are 6-9 in the postseason since winning the section Division II title in 2011. They have reached the semifinals once in 10 years since then.

Two section championships in a span of six years (Vacaville won its first in 2006) raised the bar for the Bulldogs. MEL titles are nice, but they lose their luster when they become as certain as death and taxes.

Vanden is the only MEL team to come within 20 points of Vacaville in three of the past four years.  The Vikings lost 35-17 to the Bulldogs two years ago, their last loss on their way to the state 3-AA championship.

Will C. Wood lost 34-31 to Vacaville in 2018, three years after the Wildcats humbled the Bulldogs in a 49-26 victory. The Bulldogs’ last MEL loss was 28-21 to Napa in 2016. Vacaville has won 27 in a row since then.

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.

All (MEL) or nothing … for now

Kyler Abramowicz sank his teeth into a large quesadilla on Nov. 7 when the Vacaville High School junior should have been at football practice. Kyler is no longer a football player, however, at least for the time being. He quit Nov. 5 at the behest of his father Dennis, a day after the Bulldogs’ leading tackler was not selected to the All-Monticello Empire League team.

Two Vacaville linebackers, senior Coulter Malone and junior Logan Cunningham, were voted to the first team. Senior Cody Hume was a second-team selection. Kyler had 72 tackles in 10 games, surpassing his three  fellow linebackers who were All-MEL selections by at least 25 apiece. If the Vacaville coaches who attended the MEL meeting could not nominate Kyler, they could have at least pointed out to those who could do so that Kyler was worthy of consideration.

A second-team or honorable mention selection might not have been enough to prevent Dennis from venting his disgust on Facebook by posting, “Way to screw over a kid. Sick to my stomach, What a (expletive) joke this has become.” Dennis did not refer to Kyler by name, writing that he was asking on behalf of a friend about “a player” who had been apparently snubbed.  Those who added comments to his post could read between the lines and knew it was Kyler.

Dennis once strolled the sidelines as a coach with the Bulldogs, but his differences with the staff led to his resignation in 2017. No one could blame Dennis from jumping to the conclusion that Kyler was being punished because his father turned his back on the program. This was just a year after Kyler’s brother Talon led the Bulldogs in tackles as a senior and was just a second-team all-league selection. When Kyler got nothing Monday, Dennis had to be thinking it was no coincidence as in “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” 

Here is the difference between Talon and Kyler. Talon was a senior when he did not get what he and his father believed he deserved. Had Dennis forced Talon to quit, Talon would have missed one playoff game before turning in his No. 32 jersey.  Kyler is a junior. If he does not return now, who knows if the coaches will allow him to play as a senior and wear No. 21 again. With Kyler having aspirations of playing in college, imagine how he will explain to a recruiter that he walked out on his team because Dennis was hell-bent on settling a score with the coaches by depriving them of his son’s services.

Kyler might not be angry as his father, but the pain is evident when he talks of what has transpired in the past four days. He would never want anyone to think of him as a quitter, but he has to answer to his father before doing so to any high school coach. In this tug of war, Kyler is the rope that is frayed at both ends.

This is not a matter of right or who has been wronged. The only score to be settled will come Nov. 15 when Vacaville hosts Elk Grove in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoff game. Hopefully, Kyler will return by then with a warm welcome from grateful coaches so he can wear No. 21 again – this season.