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Long Awaited Ring Ceremony For State Champions
Football Finale
Master of ceremonies Pete Simoncini welcomed everyone inside The Corral on Friday night. Here, he shows a special sign that was auctioned off for the Hector Padilla fundraiser that was being held at the adjacent soccer fields that same night.Leader Photos By Dennis D. Cruz

It was five month ago that the Oakdale varsity football team returned home from La Jolla as the 2016 CIF Division III State Champions. The team humiliated the home team of Bishop’s 47-0 on Dec. 17, 2016 and on Friday night, April 28, the players came together as championship rings were issued to the team.

In true Oakdale fashion the team gathered inside The Corral, while family members and fans witnessed the ceremony in the stands. Head coach Trent Merzon began the night by thanking those who made the season possible, including “The Voice of the Mustangs” Pete Simoncini, presenting him with a championship jacket.

Soon after, Coach Merzon handed the microphone over to a handful of players who wanted to share their memories of the historic season. Those who made speeches were Zac Thomas, Will Semone, Marc Dickson, Jacob Tietjen, Sean Gingerich and Cullen Bearden. Their speeches covered everything from zero period workouts at 6 a.m., to the excruciating practices both in the heat and the rain, to the loss at Sonora to start the season and to the glory that followed in Southern California. The one thing all the players shared was the brotherhood and friendships that were made in 2016. Cullen Bearden presented Coach Merzon with his CalHi Sports Coach of the Year award following his speech.

Merzon returned to the podium and acknowledged each member of his coaching staff and medical personnel, and handed them their championship rings. Each of the players were then introduced, in numerical order, and Merzon awarded them their championship rings. Once all the players had the ring boxes in their grasp, Merzon counted down to the moment of truth: the team opened the tiny boxes containing their rings. The player’s reactions varied from pride to relief to just stunned silence at the unique and historic keepsake.

“Tonight was a recap of our amazing season. The community always supported us and it was great to see them come to our ceremony,” junior Jace Krick said of the evening. “It’s been a long time since we stepped on the field. But when I saw my ring all the memories came back and solidified that the journey was real.”

Earlier in the Week Oakdale was honored at the 50th annual Outstanding Athletes Award ceremony at the SOS Club in Modesto. That night the team was named Team of the Year. Will Semone was named Outstanding Male Athlete of the Year as well.