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.

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



Race walking into romance

Robyn Stevens fell for Nick Christie even though he is nine years younger.

Nick Christie was ready to leave the friend zone with Robyn Stevens in 2019 when he invited the 2001 Vacaville High School graduate to the California Super Bloom. There was one slight problem, however. Stevens was more attracted to the endless fields of wildflowers than to a man nine years her junior.

Stevens was content with their connection being race walking. The two became acquainted by occasionally training together, and Christie’s Super Bloom invitation came after they crossed paths at the USA Track & Field 20-kilometer Race Walk Championships in Southern California.

Age is no longer an issue for Stevens because she and Christie are now an inseparable couple. They will leave for Tokyo on July 28 as the only American race walkers to qualify for the Olympics.  It took more than their respective victories June 26 at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Oregon to make it.

Their tickets to Japan were determined by the world rankings with each needing to be in the top 60 to qualify. Stevens was ranked 54th entering the U.S. Olympic Trials, so there was little chance that she would miss out regardless of how she finished. Christie was ranked 61st, so he was hanging on by a thread.

Stevens, a 2001 Vacaville High graduate, made it to the Olympics by being ranked 54th in the world. The top 60 qualified.

Christie did the math and figured he would need to finish with a time south of 1 hour and 25 minutes to climb into the top 60. He crossed the finish line in 1:30:48 with Stevens on his heels as she began her final 1-kilometer lap. A photo of Stevens hitting the banner at the finish line shows the shock on her face because she felt as if she had stolen Christie’s thrill of victory.

“I slapped his butt and someone told me, ‘How sweet of you to push Nick through the finish,’” Stevens said. “That was his finish line. I was thinking about him and trying not to cry. I knew he had to go under 1:25. He was smiling, but I could see in his eyes that he wasn’t confident. I knew my parents couldn’t go (to Tokyo) and if Nick didn’t make it, I would have had to go alone.”

Fortunately, a race walker in the men’s top 60 was withdrawn by his country. Christie received the good news after the rankings were updated July 5, which was the last day for countries to submit their team rosters for Tokyo. Although the withdrawal was expected, Christie came within a few short hours of being left out.

All their trials and triumphs as race walkers will make for great stories that Stevens and Christie will share one day with their children. Starting a family is on their agenda along with returning to the Olympics in 2024. Competing in Paris would be special because they are both sponsored by a French sporting goods company, Decathlon. Christie was a guest at the opening of Decathlon’s Emeryville store in 2019. They have even discussed what it will take to qualify for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. Stevens thinks of all those possibilities and remembers how close she came to letting Christie get away.

“I enjoyed his company, but I wasn’t thinking romantically because of his age. I always went for older guys,” said Stevens, who was 36 at the time. “I told him I thought the Super Bloom would be cool to see and that it would be cool to have someone to see it with. I just thought he wanted to hang out.”

Christie saw much more than flowers when he was  invited by Stevens to Las Vegas because a friend of hers was performing in what she called a burlesque show. When her topless friend took the stage, Stevens could not imagine what Christie had to be thinking. The blush in his cheeks was her first clue.

“I was thinking a cabaret or something like that, maybe just a little risqué,” recalled Christie, who  had to hustle after the last-minute  invitation to make the five-hour drive from San Diego in time for the show. “That was a little surprising. I didn’t think it was going to be like that. I didn’t know what I agreed to.”

Stevens did not give much thought to how Christie would react to nudity because “this is Vegas. It wasn’t dirty at all. I really didn’t think about this being out of his comfort zone. He’s pretty chill, but when she came out he was all pink in the face. He was great. He went with the flow.”

The best was yet to come. Stevens also invited Christie to go to a goat yoga class the following day. The class was in an outdoor pen and the students went through the various yoga moves as baby goats climbed all over them. And the instructor just happened to be Stevens’ exposed friend, the dancer.

“By the end of the weekend, I knew I was interested in him.” Stevens admitted. “Who doesn’t bond over goats … cute baby goats? I was actually wondering if he was thinking, ‘I don’t know about this Robyn.’”

He certainly knows enough by now. 

Three seniors deserve final bow


The curtain will fall on the 2021 baseball season for Vacaville and Will C. Wood high schools on Thursday when the Wildcats travel across town to face the Bulldogs at 4 p.m. Before the lights are turned out, these three seniors deserve to take a bow before they exit stage left.

Kobe Rolling (from left), Juan Martinez and Daniel Navarro

Daniel Navarro and Kobe Rolling, Will C. Wood

Navarro and Rolling came to the rescue of Fairfield pitcher Juan Martinez on March 30 after Martinez was calling for balking on consecutive pitches. Martinez had no idea what was wrong because he speaks Spanish and could not understand the umpire. Fairfield coach Nick Spini did not fare any better when he went to the mound after the first balk with another Spanish-speaking player, whom Spini said could not translate a balk because he never heard of it.

The second balk call prompted Navarro and Rolling to go to the mound. Navarro’s father was raised in Mexico and only speaks Spanish. Rolling was enrolled in the Dual Immersion program as a youngster, so he learned Spanish before English. Martinez’s plight was all too familiar for Navarro, who did not speak English when he arrived at Wood in the fall of 2017.

“I felt his pain,” said Navarro, who credits teachers such as Katie Stonebraker at Wood for investing the time and diligence to help him become bilingual.

Martinez did not know what to think as two members of the opposing team made their way to the mound. “He was shocked,” Navarro said. Rolling added, “He had his guard up. I think he was a little scared. It has to be frightening when you don’t understand English.”

That the Wildcats had a 14-0 lead at the time had nothing to do with Rolling’s decision to go to the mound and take along Navarro. “I still would have gone out there if (the score) was opposite,” Rolling said. “It was the right thing to do at the right moment.”

Navarro and Rolling will be honored Thursday evening by the Governing Board of the Vacaville Unified School District during its meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m.

Austin Menesini, Vacaville

Four juniors made the 24-player varsity roster for the Bulldogs in 2020. Menesini was not one of them. The catcher was sent down to the junior varsity to play with his brother JJ, a sophomore. When COVID-19 wiped out the season, Menesini had plenty of time to stew after having assumed he would make the varsity.

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Austin Menesini

“I was in shock to be honest with you. I have high expectations for myself,” Menesini said. “I called my parents to tell them what happened and they told me I could stick it out or quit. I’m not a quitter. I knew what I had to do to get better. With all that was going on, I had to overcome it. I was motivated to prove people wrong.”

Among those people would be a few varsity players who teased Menesini for being demoted to the junior varsity, “They did make fun of me a lot,” he said. “They were chirping at me.”

Coach Stu Clary said it was not if Menesini did anything wrong during tryouts. Menesini was simply the odd man out with three senior catchers on the varsity. “It wouldn’t have been good to have him sit there and watch those three play,” Clary said. “And it wasn’t like we could just put him in left field. Our positions were stacked last year.”

Menesini’s perseverance has paid off this spring. He is the starting catcher for the Bulldogs and is batting .400 as the leadoff hitter. He had two hits, including a triple to drive in his brother, in Vacaville’s 16-2 victory over Wood on Tuesday. It might have taken Menesini three years to make his varsity, but he is certainly making the most of it.

“When there’s a bump in the road, you don’t give up. You go around it,” Menesini said. “I had to find my way around it.”

Fast four-ward for relay team

Aspin Oliver (from left), Lily Holman, Makayla Oliver and Maya Holman started off Saturday by training for the Monticello Empire League championships Tuesday and Thursday at Vanden. The three seniors and one sophomore (Lily) are ranked second in the state in the 4×100 relay and Aspin is first in the 300-meter hurdles.

Dodgers keep Gonsolin around

Tony Gonsolin is no longer a one night stand for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The 2012 Vacaville High School graduate has moved beyond flirting with the Dodgers by pitching in one game and then being sent away the next day. The relationship must be getting serious because his latest stay is at  five weeks … and counting.

The Dodgers swept aside the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League wild-card playoffs and are facing the San Diego Padres in the divisional round. The best-of-five series began Tuesday night in Arlington, Texas with the Dodgers winning 5-1.

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(Courtesy photo/Oklahoma City Dodgers)
Tony Gonsolin is 2-2 in 2020 with a 2.31 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 46 2/3 innings.

For the sake of neutrality, the NL divisional playoffs will be in American League parks. The two AL series are in NL cities The Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins are in Houston as the Astros battle the Oakland A’s at Dodger Stadium. The Tampa Rays and New York Yankees are in San Diego with the Padres in Texas. Nothing makes much sense in this bizarre season of cardboard fans and nasal swabs.

The yo-yo manner in which the Dodgers have treated Gonsolin also makes little sense, although he would rather go back and forth instead of not going at all. The right-hander made his major-league debut on June 26, 2019 in Arizona and returned to Triple-A Oklahoma City on June 27. His second start was July 30. He was sent packing a day later.

Gonsolin returned Aug. 2 and earned his first major-league victory Aug. 5 by allowing two hits in six shutout innings against the St. Louis Cardinals. He then packed his bags and returned to Oklahoma City on Aug. 6. The Dodgers recalled Gonsolin on Aug. 18 and retained him for the final six weeks of regular season.

This season brought more of the same. Gonsolin joined the Dodgers on July 31 to start in Arizona and left the next day for the team’s alternate training site at USC. He returned Aug. 12 and made two starts before again being sent away Aug. 19. When the Dodgers recalled him for good on Aug. 30, he could only assume he was staying because no one told him otherwise. So much for any pomp and circumstance of making it to the big leagues.

“They really don’t tell you anything,” said Gonsolin, who won two of his five starts in September to even his record at 2-2. The 26-year-old finished the regular season with a 2.31 ERA and struck out 46 in 46 2/3 innings.

Not only did Gonsolin impress the Dodgers in 2019 with his pitching. He also batted .308 with one of his four hits coming against former Vallejo High star CC Sabathia in the Dodgers’ 2-1 victory over the New York Yankees on Aug. 24. Gonsolin singled in the third inning and scored on a home run by Justin Turner. 

That proved to the difference because Gonsolin and three relievers combined to allow just five hits. Gonsolin yielded two hits and one run when Aaron Judge blasted a ball well beyond the center-field fence. 

With the NL adding the designated hitter this season, Gonsolin can leaves his bats in the clubhouse. He does not miss batting in games as much as taking batting practice with the other pitchers. Batting practice often turned into a home run derby with pitchers trying to prove they can go deep.

“It’s always fun watching the balls getting launched,” said Gonsolin, who hit seven homers of 11 homers at Saint Mary’s College as a senior. He has yet to go deep since being a ninth-round draft pick in 2016. 

“Getting in the (batter’s) box is fun,” Gonsolin said, “In this abbreviated season, it’s probably better to have a guy up there that can put together a good at-bat. We’re facing some pretty tough pitchers in the playoffs.”

Whether the Padres will face Gonsolin in the NLDS remains to be determined. Five games in five days leave little chance of Walker Buehler (Game 1 starter) and Clayton Kershaw (Game 2) making two starts in the series. Gonsolin’s availability to start might come down to whether he is needed out of the bullpen.

Gonsolin had a solid start against the Padres on Aug. 12, surrendering three hits in 4 2/3 shutout innings and striking out eight. He needed to finish the the fifth inning to be eligible for a win, which he would have earned after the Dodgers scored two runs in the bottom of the fifth to pull ahead in a 6-0 victory.

The Dodgers loosened Gonsolin’s leash on Sept. 26  after the Los Angeles Angels rallied for four runs in the third inning to erase a 3-0 deficit. Gonsolin walked to the mound in the fourth because no one told him not to. He blanked the Angels in the next three innings as the Dodgers came back to pull out  a 7-6 victory.

Gonsolin knows nothing of the Dodgers’ pitching plans for the NLDS other than “Buehler’s going in Game 1.” All he can do at this point is hope to remain with the Dodgers until the last out of their season. The Dodgers can alter their 28-player roster before the NL Championship Series and the World Series.

They did just that for the NLDS by dropping catcher Keibert Ruiz and adding pitcher Dylan Floro. They also swapped position players with backup first baseman Edwin Rios injured by adding infielder Gavin Lux. After all of his one night stands, Gonsolin has learned not to count his chickens or any other birds.

“It’s out of my control. All that stuff is way over my head,” Gonsolin said. “It could be dictated by matchups. All I know is when I go out there, I am going to do the best I can do.”

Bulldogs on the run with Monk

Daniel Hernandez (left) and Kelln Steplight set the pace in a training run last Monday at Folsom High, where the Bulldogs placed second in the section meet.

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.

David Monk works with freshman Paulina Peterson on how to attack a hill on Monday.

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.”

Monk now knows better, and so do the Bulldogs.

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.