Dreams do come true. Four simple words, with such big meaning.
This past Saturday, Oakdale’s notable ‘Friday Night Lights’ took on both a new and epic meaning as the Oakdale Mustangs hit the road for an away game. This was not just any old ‘away’ game or any ol’ Saturday, for that matter. This would be the day that players, families, community members and sports enthusiasts will talk about for years to come.
Not sure where I’m going with this? Just returning from a trip abroad or out of the area? On Saturday, Oct. 11 the players of the Oakdale Mustangs varsity football team along with their coaching staff took to the field and the home of the San Francisco 49ers at the newly opened Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. They were not there for a ‘camp’ or motivational speech by a NFL champ. No. The Oakdale Mustangs were in Santa Clara for one reason and one reason only, to show the Manteca Buffaloes what they were made of … Grit.
Arguably this may seem a topic more fitting for our sports reporter Dennis D. Cruz. As I write this I suspect maintaining his enthusiasm as he recounts the 42-21 victory over Manteca, will put his skills to task. It was an amazing game to watch. Both teams played with their heart and it held a fair share of nailbiting moments, especially in the first half.
I however am the ‘mommy’ of our creative team. I watched boys on a field realizing a dream. I saw parents in the stands hang on to tears and beam with pride as their young men were given the chance of a lifetime. I saw much more than players on Saturday afternoon. From my seat in Section 140 row 18 with my children to one side and friends all around me, I simply took in the history and the magnitude of the moment.
This truly wasn’t any ‘ol Saturday. This was the day that a fullback (small in stature but big in heart) would deliver the touchdown his mama had asked of him. A young man, supported by a team and surrounded by strength would see this through not once, but six times over. Only later to report graciously to the media that his offensive line made it possible, it was a team win.
This would be the day that a ‘small guy’ by football standards saw through a goal he assigned to himself months ago. To not just walk onto the field of Levi’s Stadium, home of his favorite NFL team. No. This is the game he would play as a starter and an effective one on the offensive line.
These are just two of the countless stories which filled Saturday afternoon and Santa Clara. One friend was quick to notice the dominance of red and gold throughout the limited section opened up for the high school football fans. It was hard to turn and not spot a face you knew, or a hand waving to catch your attention.
Simply put it was perhaps one of the best community field trips I’ve ever experienced.
As I sat in my seat, my phone blew up with text messages from friends throughout the sections. “Where are you?” “Come find us.” “I see you.”
Truthfully, unless I was walking for a tray of garlic fries I didn’t move. The game was too good and the moment too huge to spend chatting with friends I could see back in the 95361.
The two young men I’ve mentioned, I have known since they were younger than my son. I would be lying if I did not admit to texting both of their mothers. Again, I’m a mom. I’ve known these boys longer than my own children and yep ... I was proud of what they had done not just for their town but for themselves and their team.
Winning is great. This team came to win. They know their town. They know their following and they were ready to deliver a game which would be talked about for years to come.
This was the day, that the Mustangs would reply to the gracious Manteca invitation not with an attitude of ‘we’re grateful and humbled’, but rather ‘we came to play and winning is our only option.’ I am not a high school football expert; I’ve shared that in the past. It doesn’t take long, however, to recognize ours is not a team of ‘large’ boys. These young men showed the crowd what their Oakdale fans already knew, their drive and hearts are huge and yes … not one to cross without reservation.
So now, days later ... as I wrap this all up … store it in the memory book of great Oakdale moments, I offer just a few words to this team of players, Coach Trent Merzon and the rest of the team that supports and pushes these young men.
Thank you. Thank you for being the team that works together and took advantage of field opportunities not agendas. Much of the press has reported on some pretty fun trivia facts from that day. Thank you for being the team to take it all with grace and rather than bask in such trivia, began looking to the next one. Thank you for being role models of grace and perseverance for not only the young eyes in the stands, but the old ones as well. Once again, you young men have shown many outside of the 95361 what this town represents. ‘Mustang Pride’ is bigger than a football field; it is a way we live. It is an expectation we have of each child we, yes, we raise as a community. Thank you for being those representatives. And lastly, thank you for continuing the priceless tradition of taking a knee in the center of that NFL field. To God be the glory and on Saturday you each served Him and us well. Thank you.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at email@example.com or by calling 847-3021.