Athlete Highlight

Vacaville Christian High football player Zack Mercado makes it official with University of Nevada

Vacaville Christian High School’s Zack Mercado looks over his paperwork before signing his letter of intent to attend the University of Nevada and continue his football career Wednesday during a short ceremony on campus. Mercado is the first player from the school to earn a scholarship to play football at a Division I program. (Joel Rosenbaum / The Reporter)


Four years ago, the Vacaville Christian High School football program got a reboot.

One of the stalwarts of that new team was a kid with a lot of upsides and the willingness to put in the work needed, both academically and athletically, to be a success in the classroom and on the field.

On Wednesday, that hard work was officially rewarded as Zack Mercado, a 6-foot-3. 250-pound defensive lineman for the Falcons signed his letter of intent to play football for the University of Nevada. With his parents standing behind him and the room filled with teammates and well-wishers, Mercado put paper to pen and made it official.

Vacaville Christian High volleyball player Kirra Martin is athlete of the week

Vacaville Christian High School’s Kirra Martin returns a serve in their first-round section playoff match against Buckingham Collegiate Charter Academy last week. She has been named The Reporter’s Athlete of the Week. (Joel Rosenbaum / The Reporter)

PUBLISHED:  | UPDATED: November 2, 2021 at 11:08 a.m.
PHOTO:(Joel Rosenbaum — The Reporter file) 

Junior has Falcons in the section semifinals

Heading into the Carmichael Invitational Tournament in September, the Vacaville Christian girls volleyball players were searching for their identity, unsure of just how good a team they could become.

After two straight losses to fall to 2-3 overall, something clicked. The Falcons bounced back for two straight wins in the tourney and a second-place finish.

“We went in thinking we weren’t going to do well,” said Kirra Martin, middle blocker for the Falcons, “and we took second place. That helped us going into league. We were able to see our potential as a team during the tournament.”

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2021 swim team

VCS Falcon Swimmers bring home the Championship

This 2021 Swim season has been anything but normal. As the COVID-19 ban on high school sports was lifted in late January, the spring sports season took off running… swimming in this case… to prepare for whatever competition opportunities we could pull together. Counties across the Sac-Joaquin Section were all faced with the same daunting challenges: who can we play and who can even roundup enough student-athletes to field a team. Swim teams were no exception to these challenges. The Falcons built a schedule with six scrimmages and meets in total.

With COVID things were a little different than previous years, but we made due as a team. I am happy we were able to have a season and that each swimmer made the adjustments to the protocols.

Grace Erkeneff, Head Coach

The Sierra Delta League Championship meet was made up of VCS, Rio Vista and Golden Sierra. The experience was amazingly!  Even through the many challenges, the one thing that has made this spring so much better was seeing our student-athletes compete in each event with a renewed sense of joy and appreciation. As head coach Grace Erkeneff described, many of these student-athletes are new to the sport of swimming.

They all have improved tremendously and this is very gratifying as a coach to see each athlete excel in the sport. Some have made the jump to continue swimming outside of the season. This is something I love seeing, that they not only tried something new, but have gained a passion for the sport as well.

Grace Erkeneff, Head Coach

Highlights from the Saturday, May 1, 2021 Championship swim meet:

-Elaina Craig broke the SDL record in the 200 free and she earned All League in the 200 Free and 500 free.

-Mason Releford broke the SDL records in the 200 free, 100 breast and the 50 free. He also received All League in the 100 breast and 50 free.

-Jordan Holden was 1st in the 100 butterfly and scored All League in this event. 

-Megan Redican secured 1st place in the 100 free and gained All League in the 100 free.

-Elaina Craig, Jordan Holden, Maddie Quesada and Laura Everett all earned All League in the 200 free relay.

-Our second relay (Kaitlyn Uy, Rachel Nelson, Brianna Hanson, and Kyra Williams) was not too far behind and scored 2nd place VCS in the 200 free relay.

The girls made VCS history!!! They won league!!! What a well deserved win!!!

-Grace Erkeneff, Head Coach

cross country

Congratulations to the Falcons Cross Country High School Team

On Saturday, March 27, the high school Cross country family celebrated the end of a long and crazy season with a long and crazy run. 

Eight runners ran a half marathon (13.1 miles) starting at the high school at 7am. 

Then, four pairs of runners split a half marathon and ran 6.55 miles each at 8am. 

Parents did an amazing job decorating the high school parking lot and every runner had an epic finish with balloons, banners, encouraging signs, air horns, and music rooting for them. Because food is the cross country love language, tables were lined up with a feast for all.

Five seniors, Sean, Josh, Caitlin, Megan, and Allyson ran through a customized breakaway banner and were showered with candy leis and gifts. 

There was no better way to celebrate the entire running family than this.

We may run faster alone but we run further together. 

Mia Douglas, Head Coach
cross country AFC Project

Support VCHS Cross Country in their season Finale!

The big day is here! There are 16 runners who have been training to either run 13.1 miles solo or 6.55 miles with a partner in the VCHS Half Marathon Challenge. The Falcons would love to invite you to be a part of the excitement by joining us by finding a spot along the route to cheer on our runners or join us at the high school parking lot for their epic start and finish, or both!

Eight runners are doing the half marathon and will start at 7am and finish between 8:50am and 9:10am. The other eight are partnered up and running 6.55 miles together to split the half marathon. The latter start at 8am with an estimated finish of 9:10-9:15am. Both groups start and finish in front of the high school.

We will be decorating the parking lot and playing music to celebrate their season and incredible dedication to our running family.


Pazdel is anchor of Vacaville Christian defense

Bryce Pazdel is the one that keeps Vacaville Christian churning.

Pazdel, a junior linebacker and fullback/tight end, is the one in the middle anchoring everything. He’s a coach on the field. A leader. Wise beyond his years.

“Bryce Pazdel is the absolute brain in the middle,” said Vacaville Christian head coach Manny Tarango. “He’s up to like 210 pounds now. He’s thick. He knows everybody’s position, all 11 players. He knows their routes. He knows the blocking scheme. He’s in charge of the defense. He knows all 17 blitz combinations and all six, seven fronts that we use and the coverage that we need. He is the defensive coordinator on the field, and that’s what makes him so good. He’s just such a student of the game.”

Right when Pazdel arrived at Vacaville Christian, he turned into a star and one of the region’s premier athletes.

As a freshman, in the Falcons’ first season back as a program after not fielding a team for multiple years, Pazdel shined in every regard. His 75 tackles were the second-most on the roster, adding one sack, one quarterback hurry and two blocked field goals in a 1-9 campaign for VCS.

But that was only the beginning.

The class of 2022 sensation turned it up a notch again during his sophomore season, registering a team-high 133 tackles – which ranked 68th in California and was the third-most among California sophomores, according to statistics available on MaxPreps. His final statistics also read six tackles for loss, seven quarterback hurries, two interceptions, one forced fumble and one blocked field goal.

And Pazdel was a key cog offensively, carrying the ball 10 times for 75 yards while catching 15 passes for 258 yards and one score – part of a VCS squad that improved to a seven-win team and was a Sac-Joaquin Section semifinalist.

“I know he’s smart,” said Vacaville Christian sophomore King Saffings. “I know he can run. He can hit hard too.”

Those numbers only tell part of Pazdel’s story, though.

Leadership is in his blood. So is academic success by compiling a 4.2 GPA.

“I’ve been a natural leader pretty much most of my life,” Pazdel said. “I get a lot of it from Boy Scouts, from other extracurricular activities. I’m in NHS and things like that.”

Also a baseball and soccer player, Pazdel’s offseason has been one of tremendous growth to an already impressive skill set.

Tarango said Pazdel has gained 20 pounds and improved his 40-yard dash time. Plus, he’s honed in on making the defense better to understand his and his teammates’ responsibilities.

All of that work has Pazdel aiming for VCS to create an even more formidable defense, along with some hardware… 

“This year, as sort of the defensive captain, I would like to have the best defense in the league and take that defense and win league and section, if we end up competing for section,” Pazdel said.

Leaks and Allen, decisions to be made as offers come in

December 13, 2020/Chris Jackson

Excerpt taken from West Coast Preps Bay Area Recruiting Notebook:

Leaks sets decision date

Vacaville Christian senior athlete Jaron Leaks is less than a week away from picking his college destination. Leaks said he will commit on Dec. 19 and then sign his National Letter of Intent on Feb. 6. His offer list features Georgia Knights Prep Academy, La Verne, Lawrence Tech, Pacific, UC Davis, Valley City State and Whittier.

Despite an injury, Leaks’ junior campaign brought Vacaville Christian to new heights after a one-win season the year prior, notching 395 receiving yards, four touchdowns, 40 tackles, one interception and one fumble recovery while VCS went 7-5 and played in the Sac-Joaquin Section semifinals.

Recent Bay Area offers

  • Vacaville Christian junior athlete Kendall Allen’s first offer came in, with Southern University out of the Division I level offering him. Allen finished with 990-plus receiving yards each of his first two years of high school. 

Read the full article by West Coast Preps

West Coast Prep Kendall Allen

Xclusive Speed Top 45 Powered by West Coast Preps: Nos. 30-26

No. 27: Vacaville Christian junior receiver Kendall Allen

Kendall Allen is simply a freak of an athlete.

During his first two high school seasons, Allen was one of the top receivers in the entire region and accumulated nearly 1,000 yards both seasons. His freshman year was a 994-yard and 13-touchdown season, following that up with 992 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns to lift Vacaville Christian in a remarkable turnaround from one win in 2018 to a section semifinals appearance in 2019.

On top of that, Allen is a star in basketball and track. He averaged 13.9 points per game off the bench as a freshman to help VCS to a Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI championship and then posted 21.8 points per game his sophomore year, all the while also being a Junior Olympian.

Click here to read the West Coast Preps article Xclusive Speed Top 45 Powered by West Coast Preps: Nos. 30-26

kai Nunley

Sophomore Nunley is ‘power and spunk’ at VCS

Kai Nunley is absolute power and spunk.

That’s exactly how Vacaville Christian head coach Manny Tarango describes Nunley, a sophomore running back and linebacker who has dazzled every step of the way early in his high school career. Not only is a beast on the field, but in the weight room he is full throttle, and as a person, he’s just one of those guys everyone loves to be around. 

“Kai is one of those kids that’s always dancing,” Tarango said. “He’s always singing. He’s just happy about being at football, and the kid just PRd a 505 deadlift. He is thick. He’s got a very short powerful lower body. He’s committed himself to the weight room. His 40 time is increased.”

But, before Nunley ever arrived at Vacaville Christian, he was not ready to make himself a Falcon.

At least, not when he first heard the news. 

Nunley’s mother originally wanted him to go to VCS, but when Nunley heard those words, he thought she was joking. Yet she was serious, and Nunley didn’t know what to say at that exact moment.

“I cried that day, but when I came here I was like this is a really good team,” Nunley said. “This is much better. Because we actually knew each other, and I can just tell we can get along. I know these people. I know they’re good people. They don’t care about themselves. They care about their teammates. They care about each other.”

“We’re family. We’re a really good family. We’re trying to help each other out. We really are. We try our best to make sure one of us goes to college or one of us gets out of here because that’s our main goal is just to go out. We’re just trying to go places, go far, wherever we can.”


That incredible production lifted Nunley into all-metro and all-region honors on both sides of the ball and showed how profound his impact has been for this surging Falcons program, which went 1-9 the year before Nunley arrived and boosted that record to 7-5 and a trip to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII semifinals his first year on campus.

“That kid puts the mouthpiece in and he’s just like, ‘Let’s go,’ like Ezekiel Elliott,” Tarango said. “He kind of rolls the jersey up to expose the abs and he’s just giving you the spoon feed, like, ‘Keep feeding me. Let’s go.’ And he’s running to the ball when we’re doing tempo drills, and he’s like faster, faster, faster.”

What remains a scary thought is Nunley has only beefed up and improved in every regard during this offseason.

He’s deadlifting 500-plus pounds. His 40-yard dash time is down 0.2 seconds, all the way from a 4.9 to a 4.7 – Nunley ran a 4.72 at the Routes vs. Coverage Showcase earlier this month.

“He’s completely transformed his legs,” Tarango said. “He’s just thicker. He’s stronger. He’s gotten faster, and he’s only 15. And I think he just loves football, and it just comes naturally to him. Because that comes natural, it allows us as coaches to focus on your blocking and catching the ball out of the backfield because I can’t teach you your body. You know your body. You know how to run people over. That’s what you do.”

Tarango envisions Nunley to become one of the top recruits in the region by the time he’s a junior, and Nunley is eager to make those college dreams come true and get to the next level.

“Open to all offers, but it would be a life changer,” Nunley said. “If I got an offer or something, or if one of my teammates got an offer, it would be good. It would affect us. It really would because then we’d all be hyped. We would all be hyped up. We would all be going hard because we got eyes on us.”

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