© 2017 vacavillefootball.com TEAMS SCHEDULE HISTORY EVENTS SCHOOL SPIRIT STUDENT ATHLETES/PARENTS CONTACTS ARCHIVES Vacaville High School will celebrate its football homecoming tonight at  halftime of the varsity game. The real ceremony will take place after the game,  however.  Head coach Tom Zunino will huddle with his players and their parents as he  has after every game in his 35-year career. He’ll ask his assistant coaches to  dig deep into their pockets in search of pennies so that the award ceremony  can commence. Don’t think the Bulldogs are penny pinchers. Zunino likes to  acknowledge his players with their parents present, and pennies happen to be  far cheaper than trophies.  “It started when (Steve) Smentek was here. It started back in the early ‘60’s,”  Zunino said. “One night we decided to give something out to the kids to  acknowledge them. It happened to be pennies. It just happened. We started  saving pennies. It could have been anything, but we were too cheap. We  were poor then. We wanted to do something, and it’s a hell of a lot cheaper  than buying dinners for the kids.”  The coins mean as much to the players as any award they recieve during the  season. Chris Fernandez has earned his share of pennies in three seasons  with the Bulldogs, and they’re stored in a bowl for safe keeping in his  mother’s china cabinet. “I give them to my mom (Terry), and I tell her not to  lose them. I don’t want them mixed in with pennies in her purse,” Fernandez  said. “I wish I would have marked them somehow so I would know when I got  them and who gave them to me.”  Fernandez first learned of the penny ritual as a  child and was anxious to become part of the  tradition after promoted to the varsity team as  a sophomore.  “I went to games when Meko (May) and (Keith)  Siscel were playing, and they were handing  out pennies,” he recalled. “I was thinking, ‘Can  I get one of those?’ I had a friend (Mark Norton) who got a couple pennies and taped  them on his wall.”  Zunino doesn’t pass out pennies. He lets his assistant coaches share the duty  of recognizing the players in front of their families for turning in strong  performances.  “They do mean something. It’s always something special,” Zunino offered. “It’s  immediate. We do the other awards after we look at the movies. You don’t want  to give too many out. But if it’s a team effort, you have to give more out.”  Players can get greedy when it comes to collecting coins. Fernandez thought  he deserved two pennies after Vacaville’s 34-14 win over Woodland two weeks  ago, but the two-way starter recieved just one from linebacker coach Steve  Green. Offensive line coach Fred Jones was running out on pennies and passed  on Fernandez.                                                     “He said he only had one penny left and I already                                                     had one,” Fernandez said. “I wanted him to dig into                                                     his pocket and find another one. He could have found                                                     another one.”                                                     The presentation of pennies coincides with Zunino’s                                                     post game talk, and the coach doesn’t bite his tongue                                                     just because parents are present. If the team deserves  criticism, Zunino won’t temper his remarks until his players have reached the locker  room. Zunino will vent his frustration at his players on the field in front of their  families and friends. “Sometimes it’s not positive, but there’s not time for fibbing.  If I have to chew them out, I chew them out.” he said. “that’s the way it is. The  parents can hear it. The kids know that.”  Dan Orosco has learned having his family present doesn’t mean he won’t be a  target of Zunino’s wrath.  “He’ll tell us that we have to work harder right there in front of our families,”  Orosco said. Fernandez added, “All the talking is done on the field in front of  the parents. He doesn’t rip on people, but he makes his point.” Fernandez can  take the criticism for a chance to collect more coins.  “It’s something special. It’s more like a tradition,” he said. “They’ll stay with  me until I die”
Players wait for the coaches to award pennies for outstanding play, a long standing tradition at Vacaville High School.
BY CECIL CONNELY VACAVILLE REPORTER VACAVILLE HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL
Where tradition never graduates
Bulldog Penny Award