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Weston Ranch cadets impress at Raiders games
Weston Ranch JROTC cadets James Jennings, Teresa Novoa, Nancy Aguilar and Joseph Kruse prepare to present the colors before the Oakland Raiders season finale against the Buffaloes Bills on Dec. 21 at Coliseum. - photo by Photo Contributed

The Weston Ranch JROTC is fast-becoming a fixture at Oakland Raiders home games.

Under the direction of retired Sgt. First Class Sal Reyes, the Weston Ranch color guard presented the American and California state flags during the pregame festivities at the Raiders’ season finale against the Buffalo Bills on Dec. 21. 

Student cadets James Jennings, Teresa Novoa, Nancy Aguilar and Joseph Kruse represented Weston Ranch and later posed for pictures with former Raiders player and broadcaster Lincoln Kennedy. 

For Aguilar, a cadet first sergeant, it was a dream come true. She has been raised an Oakland Raiders fan, so the field at Coliseum is hallowed ground. 

“It was an honor being able to step on the same field that the Raiders play on,” she said. “The Oakland Raiders are my favorite team. When I found that I was going to have the chance to do this I started freaking out. I would have never thought that I would be given this chance, but I could only thank my instructor SFC Reyes for this.”

Three school staff members were also invited to the game by the California National Guard Battalion and received VIP treatment. Mike Hale, Karla Iniguez and Matt Marleau got to meet players and celebrities, including actor William Fichtner (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Armageddon). 

The Weston Ranch JROTC previously presented the colors at a Raiders-Detroit Lions preseason game and have been regulars at Stockton Ports baseball games through the years.

Reyes and Lieutenant Col. Mike Cerezo have made a concerted effort to expose their kids to the community’s biggest events.

“It was such a great experience getting to do the color guard for the Oakland Raiders-Bills game,” said Jennings, a cadet major. “Getting to do the opening ceremony for an NFL game is such an overwhelming feeling. It really is something I won’t forget.”

Novoa walked onto field wide-eyed and feeling about as big as an ant as the coliseum reached upward all around her. The cadet first sergeant had never attended a professional sporting event.

“It’s so hard to imagine yourself as a sophomore doing events on such a large scale,” Novoa said, “but this was something that I highly enjoyed and would love to do it again.

“The Raiders staff was wonderful and it helped to know we were in such capable hands.”

The feeling is mutual. 

The field “boss” that Sunday welcomed the Weston Ranch JROTC with open arms. 

“This is truly one of the most meaningful gifts that I have received since working here at the Oakland Raiders. The cadets at Weston Ranch have been a pleasure to work with,” said team staff member Haja Bangs. “I honestly got excited to see them this game, because it was my first game being in charge of the field and making sure the presentation happened.”