Momentum flirted with Vacaville High School’s football team during the second quarter Friday night at Cardinal Newman in Santa Rosa. The Bulldogs did not seem that interested, so the Cardinals took it back on their way to a 27-7 victory.
Vacaville’s defense courted momentum by getting its first three-and-out with Cardinal Newman leading 20-0. Massimo Menicou produced the only highlight for the Bulldogs by blocking a punt. Justin Albrecht recovered the ball in the end zone to pull Vacaville within 13 points.
The Bulldogs got another three-and-out, appearing to have finally figured out how to stop the Cardinals. Momentum was no longer enamored with Cardinal Newman and decided to give Vacaville a shot with the Bulldogs starting their ensuing possession at their 27-yard line.
Momentum had to be impressed with Cristian Diosdado’s 15-yard run for Vacaville’s initial first down. That was it for the Bulldogs, however, as they shifted into reverse. A penalty for an ineligible receiver downfield made it first-and-15 at the 37. Diosdado then lost 2 yards. to make it second-and-17.
Cardinal Newman was penalized for enroachment, so Vacaville got 5 free yards for second-and-12 at the 40. A 1-yard gain by Diosdado left the Bulldogs with one play to keep momentum on their side, but they called a play they had tried three times earlier with no success.
The play is designed for Diosdado to go in motion to become the target for quarterback Brody Fortunati. The Bulldogs lost a total of 9 yards the first two times they tried it and gained 2 on the third attempt. At least the fourth try ended in an incompletion with Diosdado being knocked off his feet by Cardinal Newman’s Dominick Torres as the pass arrived.
Diosdado was 4 yards deep in the backfield after going in motion and turning back toward Fortunati. Third-and-11 might as well have been third-and-15.
After Cardinal Newman’s third touchdown, Jemeir Buckner returned the kickoff 39 yards to give the Bulldogs a first down at the Cardinals’ 48-yard line. The Bulldogs tried the pass to Diosdado again on first down, but he was trapped in the backfield for a 7-yard loss.
Fortunati finished 4-for-14 with all of his completions coming in the first half – for a total of minus-7 yards. He also threw an interception.
Play selection did not matter that much for the Bulldogs when they scored 84 points in winning their first two games. When those calls mattered against the Cardinals, the Bulldogs did not answer.
Thirteen gets a bad rap as an unlucky number even though it is not always that foreboding. Many buildings do not have a 13th floor, a dinner party should never have 13 guests and couples never want to exchange vows on the 13th. And then there is Friday the 13th, which appears on the calendar once every 212.35 days.
No Vacaville High School football player wears No. 13, but the number was hardly bad for the Bulldogs in a 41-6 victory over Sheldon on Friday night at Tom Zunino Stadium. Cristian Diosdado had 13 carries for 161 yards and two touchdowns. Massimo Menicou led the defense with 13 tackles, including five for losses.
Quarterback Brody Fortunati struggled with his accuracy against the Huskies, completing just five of 16 passes for 100 yards and one touchdown. The senior was 23-of-28 for 321 yards and four touchdowns a week ago in a 43-0 rout of Davis.
Fortunati had the same problem last year in a 14-7 victory over Cardinal Newman. He was 7-of-16 for 59 yards and one touchdown. The Bulldogs will travel to Santa Rosa to face the Cardinals in Week 3. Cardinal Newman opened its season Friday by defeating Casa Grande 27-13.
Folks at the Vacaville game might have heard cheers from across town as Will C. Wood overcame an 11-point deficit in the final nine minutes to pull out a 35-32 victory over Sacramento. The Dragons will have a score to settle when they join the Monticello Empire League in 2024.
Wood trailed 32-21 after Lamar Radcliffe’s 1-yard touchdown run for Sacramento with 9:17 left. Radcliffe had another 1-yard run in the Dragons’ ensuing possession, but he needed 2 on fourth down to sustain the drive and likely put the game away.
Wood took over at Sacramento’s 42-yard line and scored four plays later when Kimani Dokes lofted a 14-yard scoring pass to Lacorey Collins. The two-point conversion attempt failed, so the Wildcats trailed 32-27 with 2:51 to play.
Sacramento tried again to seal the deal on its ensuing possession by calling a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-1 at Wood’s 39-yard line. Laron James-Radcliff was stuffed at the line of scrimmage, however, giving the Wildcats one last shot.
A 6-yard run by Dokes was followed by an incomplete pass and a holding penalty against the Wildcats, leaving Wood with a third-and-14 play at the 35. Luck was on Wood’s side when Dokes’ pass went through Josiah Chavez’s hands into the arms of Jace Harris Hudson for a first down at the 18.
Elijah Laui completed the comeback by catching a short pass from Dokes and dashing into the end zone. Dokes hit Laui again for the two-point conversion.
Dokes finished 18-of-30 for 242 yards and three touchdowns. The sophomore has thrown for at least 200 yards in each of Wood’s two victories. He will try to make it three in a row on Friday when the Wildcats travel to Stockton to face Chavez.
Clay Ford is straightforward when he speaks and carries the football. That was evident last Friday when the Will C. Wood High School senior had 22 carries for 92 yards in his first varsity start at running back as the Wildcats pulled out a 19-8 victory over Dixon.
His running style will never be described as flashy. Ford takes a handoff from quarterback Kimani Dokes and runs to the designated hole. If the hole is plugged, Ford lowers his shoulders and plows ahead for whatever he can get.
Ford’s longest run against the Rams was 11 yards. Eight of his carries were for 3 or fewer yards. What matters to offensive coordinator Nick Voight was Ford did not lose a single yard on any carry. Ford also did not have one carry in which he was stopped for no gain.
His remarks after the game were just as straightforward when asked how Wood took control of the game. Dixon scored its only touchdown with 6:08 to go in the first quarter. Wood’s Josiah Chavez returned the ensuing kickoff 92 yards, but two penalties wiped out the touchdown. Wood did not flinch and drove 90 yards in 12 yards to score.
A fake PAT failed, leaving the Wildcats with an 8-6 deficit, but Ford was not concerned. “After that,” he said, “we knew we could handle them.”
Ford will get more opportunities to run tonight when Wood hosts Sacramento. The Dragons, who will join the Monticello Empire League in 2024, blew a 27-0 lead last Friday at Rodriguez in a 43-33 loss. Sacramento has a talented back in Lamar Radcliffe, who has committed to Utah, but he gained just 55 yards on 10 carries against the Mustangs.
The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Radcliffe ran for 2,109 yards and 23 touchdowns as a sophomore, but he missed last season after tearing two knee ligaments.
Vacaville, Vacaville Christian and Vanden also have home games tonight. Dixon will travel to Winters. Here is a look at each of those contests.
Vacaville vs. Sheldon: The Huskies belong to the Elk Grove Unified School District even though the school has a Sacramento address. That explains why the Huskies had two passing attempts last Friday in a 26-7 victory over Capital Christian.
There must be an ordinance in Elk Grove that prohibits throwing the ball more than five times a game. Elk Grove had a total of five passing attempts in playoff victories over Vacaville in 2019 and 2021. Then again, the Thundering Herd could afford to pass on passing by running for a total of 951 yards and 13 touchdowns in those two games.
Vacaville Christian vs. Delta: The Saints are hardly what they were in the 1970s. Delta dominated the old Superior California Athletic League in those days with three future NFL players: quarterback Tony Eason, safety Bo Eason and offensive lineman Dan McQuaid. Delta routed San Juan 50-0 last week, while Vacaville Christian lost 52-0 at Redding Christian.
Vanden vs. Campolindo: The Cougars, who did not play last week, are rebuilding after losing their quarterback, top four rushers and top receiver to graduation. Campolindo has two solid receivers in seniors Steve Lyon and Tim Daugherty. Lyon caught 46 passes for 457 yards and four touchdowns in 2022. Daughtery added 33 receptions for 567 yards and six scores.
Dixon at Winters: The Rams squandered a scoring opportunity in the second quarter last Friday after reaching Wood’s 15-yard line. A 2-yard run was followed by Dixon being penalized for illegal procedure. Quarterback Easton Valenzuela dropped back to pass on second-and-13 at the 18, was sacked by Kevin Butters and fumbled. Jamir Collins recovered for the Wildcats.
Vacaville High School’s football team has 300 passing yards in a game about as often as it rains in August. A few drops fell Monday, three days after Brody Fortunati threw for 321 yards and four touchdowns in a 43-0 rout of Davis.
The Bulldogs must have thought they were facing Elk Grove in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs. Fortunati’s 300-yard game was just the third for Vacaville since 2004. The other two came against the Thundering Herd in the playoffs.
Jeremy Villalobos threw for 365 yards and three touchdowns in a 52-29 playoff loss to Elk Grove in 2019. Elk Grove rushed for 559 yards in a 52-48 victory in 2021, when Ryan Vaughn passed for 336 yards and two touchdowns.
Vaughn was a two-year starter and had seven games with 200 or more passing yards, including five in 2021. Vacaville had three 200-yard games from 2004 to 2018 – A.J. Hefner (2005), Ross Peacock (2008) and Chad Hekking (2013).
Villalobos was a senior when offensive coordinator Chris Santopadre left Vacaville’s coaching staff and Scott Wingert was promoted from quarterback coach to calling plays. That was the start of an offensive overhaul.
Wingert did not have a problem with the Wing T because only a handful of teams run an offense born in the 1950s. That became an advantage because opponents found it impossible to simulate the Wing T in practice to prepare.
A section championship in 2011 was made possible by sticking with an offense that fit the Bulldogs to a T. They beat Folsom 39-35 in the Division II title game by running the ball 66 times for 349 yards and five touchdowns.
In case anyone is wondering, quarterbacks Nic Ardave and the late Coleman Christensen combined to go 8-of-11 for 90 yards. Curtis Goins completed his only pass for 27 yards on a halfback option to make it 117 passing yards.
Those 66 running plays epitomized the season for the Bulldogs, who finished with 666 rushing attempts and 128 passing. The disparity was greater in 2006 as Vacaville won the section title by running 714 times and passing 120.
The Bulldogs completed both of their passing attempts in its 37-36 win over Merced in the title game. Ricky Rodarte completed one for a 1-yard loss. Robert Bensing completed one to Dion Bland, who happened to play for Merced.
Fast forward to 2019 when Wingert got his first opportunity to tinker with the offense. COVID-19 wiped out the 2020 fall season, so he had time to to discuss updating the team’s offensive style with head coach Mike Papadopoulos.
Five games in the spring of 2021 allowed Wingert to take the new spread offense for a test drive. The results showed promise with 140 running plays, 98 passing and a 5-0 record. That convinced Papadopoulos to give the go-ahead.
Wingert can draw plays in the synthetic turf all he wants, but the spread offense needs a skilled quarterback to pull the trigger. He was fortunate enough to have Villalobos for a year, Vaughn for two and now Fortunati for his second.
“We’ve got it going right now,” Wingert said Monday. “Our offense has evolved to where it’s at right now.”
The folks in Davis might want to spread the word to Vacaville’s future opponents. The spread offense is not a passing fancy.
The statistics in this story were compiled from MaxPreps.com.
Ten of the 441 wrestlers in the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters tournament have first names beginning with G. There was Gabe, Gabriel, Gavin, Gilberto, two Giovannis, Gordan, two Grants and Guryann. It sounded as if Vacaville High had one among its 14 competitors because of the cheers for “G” whenever Thomas Sandoval was on the mat.
Vacaville coach Armando Orozco admits he usually gets confused when he looks at tournament brackets and cannot find his 182-pound entrant. There is never one with a first name of Geronimo, which is Sandoval’s middle name. Nothing against the junior’s parents, but Thomas has been tossed aside like many of their son’s opponents.
The five who faced Sandoval at the Masters meet know how that feels. Three pins propelled Sandoval into the semifinals, where he defeated Oakdale’s Wes Burford by a 14-5 majority decision. Sandoval scored another majority decision in the finals with a 12-4 victory over Scott Beadles of Calaveras to take down the championship.
Sandoval is one of eight Bulldogs to qualify for the state meet, which will begin Thursday in Bakersfield. The others are sophomore Elijah Almarinez (106), freshman Wyatt Sandoval (113), sophomore Landen Borchers (120), senior Casey Roberts (126), junior Qusai Marini (138), junior Arjun Nagra (152) and senior Caleb Borchers (170).
This is Sandoval’s second trip to Bakersfield. He qualified in 2020 by finishing third at 170 at the Masters meet and then placed fourth at the state tournament. He was one of Vacaville’s four state medalists last year. Medals are awarded to the top eight finishers in each weight class. The other Bulldogs to earn medals were Isaiah Kainoa Medina (sixth at 106), Tyler Riley (eighth at 113) and Eric Almarinez (sixth at 138).
The Bulldogs will practice Wednesday morning and then depart for Bakersfield. They will have a workout in the evening at Mechanics Bank Arena. Sandoval’s bid for a second state medal begins Thursday against Noel Cellabos of Monache High (Porterville). Sandoval is the No. 3 seed, one spot higher than his state ranking by CalGrappler.com.
Tye Monteiro of Bakersfield High is seeded and ranked No. 1. Fountain Valley’s T.J. McDonnell is seeded second and ranked third. Sonny Kling of Canyon Springs is No. 2 in the rankings but fourth in the seedings. If the top four seeds hold true through the quarterfinals Friday, Sandoval will face McDonnell is the semifinals on Saturday.
Monteiro and McDonnell finished second and third, respectively, at the 2022 state tournament.
Eric Cavaliere has never had it so good as Oak Ridge High School’s football coach. He enters his 14th season at the helm of the Trojans after claiming his first Sac-Joaquin Section championship in 2019. One of his prize pupils, Ian Book, is the starting quarterback at Notre Dame. And his current quarterback, Justin Lamson, was voted the All-Metro Player of the Year by the Sacramento Bee as just a junior.
Life is going so well for Cavaliere that the 1987 Vacaville High School graduate can afford to take it easy occasionally. He did that one recent morning, relaxing in the football bleachers at Oak Ridge with flip flops on his feet and a few weeks of growth on his face, to watch a handful of quarterbacks toss passes to receivers.
In that group was Book, who is working out in his old stomping grounds after the coronavirus led Notre Dame to cancel classes on campus and spring football practice. He was joined by Lamson, who is having a difficult time with social distancing because he wants to hear any wisdom Book is willing to share. Book has no problem with any player, even an eighth-grader, wanting to work and pick his brain.
“I know what it would have meant to me when I was their age,” said Book, who is returning for a fifth year at Notre Dame after throwing for 3,034 yards and 34 touchdowns in 2019 as the Fighting Irish finished 11-2 by winning their last six games in a season for the first time since 1992.
Cavaliere and Book went out for lunch after that workout. Their conversation ranged from the Book family dog Duke to Book offering his thoughts on Lamson and Oak Ridge’s prospects for the 2020 season. Book frequently checked his phone for updates on Duke, which was bitten by a rattlesnake on a walk with Book’s father Rich. Book breathed a sigh of relief after learning just one or the snake’s fangs sank into Duke’s nose.
Comforted by the good news, Book shifted gears to football by asking Cavaliere about one Oak Ridge player after another. Book has followed the Trojans from afar and knows who’s who on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Cavaliere never ceases to be amazed by Book’s vested interest in Trojans football.
“Here is the quarterback at Notre Dame going into his final season and Ian knows the names of the guys on our team,” Cavaliere said. “He’s got plenty of things to think about, but he takes a lot of pride in our school. He’ll always be an Oak Ridge Trojan. He wants us to do well. He wants our team to kick butt.”
Cavaliere takes great pride in having played football at Vacaville High and hopes his players will be just as proud once their time at Oak Ridge comes to an end. “I want them to leave with that same kind of feeling regardless of our record or anything else. That’s always been of my goals,” he said. “This is a community school. We’re not a renegade school. We don’t have transfers coming here from all over the state, You have to live here to come here.”
Book has fond memories of being a three-year starter at quarterback for Cavaliere at Oak Ridge. The 22-year-old was weighing scholarship offers from Boise State and Washington State in 2015 when Boise State offensive coordinator Mike Sanford left to take the same position at Notre Dame. Book went from nearly committing to Boise State because of Sanford to pledging he would play at Washington State.
Sanford apparently thought enough of Book in recruiting him to Boise State that he invited Book to visit South Bend shortly after he joined the Notre Dame staff. Book was returning from a cruise with his parents at the time, so they went with him from Miami to Notre Dame and a meeting with Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly. Book had little reason to think as a three-star recruit that Kelly would offer him a scholarship.
“I sure hoped for one,” Book recalled. “It was a good visit. I felt at home.”
Finding a home has not been as easy for Sanford, who left Notre Dame after just two seasons to become the head coach at Western Kentucky. He was fired by the Hilltoppers after two years and was Utah State’s offensive coordinator in 2019. Sanford then packed his bags again for the same job at Minnesota.
Brandon Wimbush has also been on the move, transferring from Notre Dame to Central Florida in 2019 after being supplanted by Book despite a 3-0 start in the 2018 season. The Fighting Irish went 11-0 in the regular season and earned a berth in the College Football Playoff. Book was no match for Clemson freshman Trevor Lawrence in the Cotton Bowl. Lawrence threw for 327 yards and three touchdowns as the Tigers rolled to a 30-3 rout. Book passed for 160 yards and was sacked six times.
Notre Dame is 19-4 with Book as the starter, and he deserves to be credited with a 20th victory after bailing out Wimbush in the 2018 Citrus Bowl by lifting Notre Dame to a 21-17 win over LSU. Book was 14-of-19 for 164 yards and two touchdowns as Notre Dame won its first New Year’s Day bowl since 1994.
Book has come a long way since that difficult day in 2015 when he called Graham Harrell, who had recruited Book for Washington State, and left a message. Harrell replied with a text as Book was in a movie theater with a few friends. Book left the theater to call Harrell and renege on his verbal commitment.
To this day, Book does not remember the title of the movie or if he returned to the theater and rejoined his friends after making the call. “I was so rattled,” Book said.
Sanford and Book have gone their separate ways since Sanford asked Book to visit Notre Dame, but Book will never forget how he got to where he is today and the people such as Cavaliere and Sanford who paved the path for him.
“(Sanford) give me my shot. The relationship between us is still there. I will always appreciate him for the opportunity I got,” Book said. “I’ll talk a walk and think about how fortunate I’ve been. I do it a lot. I’ll go by the stadium at night after studying and think about how lucky I am.”
David Monk remained true to his school in 2006 when the 1990 Fairfield High School graduate was offered an opportunity to coach distance runners at Sacramento State. He already had his dream job of coaching cross country and track at his alma mater. Monk could not bring himself to run out on his runners.
Much had changed for Monk when Sacramento State came calling again in 2016. He was coaching at Armijo, having left Fairfield after 10 years because he could no longer find enough students willing to meet his demands. There are never any short cuts for Monk in getting the best out of each and every one of his runners.
That explains why Monk took his Vacaville High cross country runners to Folsom High at 8 a.m. on Monday. This is his first season as the Bulldogs coach, and the Sac-Joaquin Section championships are on Saturday in Folsom. Familiarity with the course will bolster the Bulldogs as they strive to extend their season for two more weeks. To do so, one or more will have to qualify for the state meet Nov. 30.
Monk has coached a state cross country champion, although he was not officially coaching at Armijo when Luis Grijalva won in 2016. Grijalva capped his senior year by winning the 1,600 meters at the state track championships in Clovis. He is still running as a junior at Northern Arizona University.
Just as Grijavla was embarking on his final year at Armijo, Monk was contacted by Sacramento State with an offer he could not refuse. His concern in accepting it was leaving Grijalva high and dry, so he talked his former Fairfield High coach – Karl Wurzbach – into guiding his prize pupil. “He was the first guy and the only guy I thought of,” recalled Monk, who became friends with Wurzbach after high school and was the best man in his wedding.
Wurzbach and his wife, Rachel, are now coaching with Monk at Vacaville High. Their daughter, Hailey, is a sophomore and will run with the Bulldogs varsity girls team in the Division II race on Saturday. Joining Hailey will be seniors Ella and Avery Bernard. The twins’ father, Andy, is also lending Monk a hand.
None of this would have come to be had Sacramento State not fired all of its cross country and track coaches in 2018. Working with college runners was a blast for Monk, but those athletes did not need much direction because “they were already on a path.” Coaching high school runners, especially the underclassmen, gives Monk an opportunity to start from square one and set them on the right course.
“I don’t care how you good are. It’s about how much you can give of yourself,” Monk said. “I have neglected Daniel (Hernandez) and Kellen (Steplight) a little bit. They only get me one day a week. They’re so equipped. They have already laid a foundation. The other kids are blank canvasses. I need to pour more into them. It has revitalized my coaching.”
Hernandez and Steplight finished third and fourth, respectively, in the Division II race at the subsection meet last week. Whitney seniors Austin Vasquez and Ethan Hodge were the top two finishers, three seconds ahead of the Vacaville duo. That is exactly what Monk asked of his top two runners. The subsection meet is nothing more than a qualifier for the section championships. Much more will be at stake Saturday for Hernandez, a senior, and his sophomore sidekick.
“We wanted to keep it in perspective,” Monk said. “We wanted to qualify and minimize our energy expenditure. I want them to stay as fresh as they can with their physical and mental energy. I want them to run with the confidence that they know they are ready.”
Wurzbach only wishes Monk would have followed his instructions in 1988 as a sophomore at Fairfield High. Wurzbach laid out the 3,200-meter race at the section meet by predicting who would finish first and second. With the top three finishers qualifying for the state championships, Wurzbach told Monk when he would have to make his move to be in the top three. Monk did not do it.
“I hesitated in the moment and it cost me,” Monk recalled. “(Wurzbach) gives me grief about it to this day.”
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.
His return to Vacaville High School on Friday would have been far different if Brandon Talton was nothing more than a walk-on freshman at Nevada with no promise of ever kicking for the Wolf Pack. There would have been no talk of his 56-yard field goal as time expired to beat Purdue on Aug. 30. No one would have asked if his kick made ESPN’s Top 10 Plays and Talton replying it did at No. 3.
His father Drew would not be knocking on a wooden table when he says his son has made all 10 of his field-goal attempts. His parents would be not breathing a sigh of relief because Nevada coach Jay Norvell gave Talton a scholarship about 12 hours after telling him he would kick against Purdue. And his parents would not have been refunded thousands of dollars for a semester of tuition, room and boar
Talton would have a English class on Fridays instead of adding it to his three classes on Mondays because he has to be free on Fridays to travel with the team as he has twice in five weeks thus far. He did not need to lower his head to say grace before having breakfast Sunday to realize he has been blessed. He did anyway because as much as his life has changed since Aug. 31, he remains the same.
A bye Oct. 5 allowed Talton, who graduated from Vacaville High in June, and quarterback Carson Strong, a 2018 Will C. Wood graduate, to jump into Talton’s car and come home for the weekend. The bye was also an opportunity for them to catch their breath and get ready for seven more weeks of football.
Nevada returns to action Saturday by hosting San Jose State at 1 p.m. Strong will start as he did in four of the first five games. He was held out of the Sept. 21 game at UTEP to heal his bumps and bruises. Senior Cristian Solano led the Wolf Pack to a 37-21 win over the Miners, but the job again is Strong’s.
Talton also had to contend with a senior, Spencer Pettit, to win the kicking job. Talton was on his way to a team meeting at lunch on Aug. 30 when Norvell took Talton aside and gave him the good news. Talton sat next to Pettit in the meeting as usual and knew Pettit had already been told he was out of luck.
“I’ve never talked to Spencer about it,” Talton said. “We’re friends. I think we got closer after that.”
Out of respect to Pettit, Talton opted to keep the good news to himself and let his teammates find out on their own. That was his plan until he ran into Strong, who gave Talton a pep talk just in case the former Bulldog got an opportunity to play. Talton eventually cut the ex-Wildcat off and told him he would be.
Talton would have preferred Strong keep it a secret, but he did not say as much. “Carson was so excited for me. He had the biggest smile on his face,” Talton said. “It was Carson who started telling everyone.”
If losing his job to a true freshman was not bad enough, Pettit got kicked in the teeth when Talton won the opener with his 56-yarder. The moment of Norvell presenting Talton with the game ball and a full scholarship after the game was caught on video with Strong providing the shout-out. “And he’s from Vacaville!”
Sleep was a priority for Talton once all the postgame interviews were finished. He turned down an invitation by his parents to go out to dinner and retreated to the five-bedroom apartment he shares with four teammates. He will move to a two-bedroom apartment next year with his sister Nicole, who transferred to Nevada after two years at Sonoma State.
“He was tired,” his father Drew said. “He just crashed.”
A modicum of normalcy had returned when Talton met his parents for breakfast the following day. He was not recognized wearing a Nutrishop Vacaville T-shirt and Lulu Lemon shorts instead of his No. 43 jersey. And at 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds, Talton hardly looks like a football player at a Division I university.