The Weston Ranch JROTC program’s pinnacle moment was nearly dashed by, of all things, Major League Baseball.
On Thursday, the Cougars’ color guard was invited to take part in the opening ceremonies of the Oakland Raiders game on Sunday evening at O.co Coliseum.
“It was a huge surprise. It was overwhelming,” Weston Ranch JROTC co-instructor Sal Reyes said of the invitation.
“This program has never been involved in anything like that. It was quite a surprise.”
However, the excitement was erased by a sobering realization: The game would begin when most of the cadets would already be in bed.
The game with the San Diego Chargers was originally scheduled for a 1:25 p.m. kickoff. However, with the Oakland A’s hosting an American League Divisional Series game at O.co Coliseum tonight, the NFL was forced to push back the AFC West rivalry game.
Stadium crews need at least 18 hours to reconfigure the stadium, which meant the 1:25 p.m. kickoff would be an impossible deadline.
Instead, the AFC West rivalry will kick off at 8:30 in a rare late-night start.
It put Weston Ranch’s JROTC instructors in a bind. The Cougars were invited by the California National Guard to present the American flag during the pregame festivities, but the late-night start gave Reyes and Mike Cerezo pause.
A local recruiter nominated the color guard for the honor after watching a recent performance.
“I almost told them no,” said Reyes, a retired Sgt. First Class in the U.S. Army. “Me and the Colonel talked about it, though, and decided this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. As long as we got the parents’ permission and we had transportation, we decided, ‘Let’s get out there.’ ”
It will culminate a banner weekend for the Weston Ranch JROTC program, which stormed the football field on Friday night as part of the school’s homecoming celebration.
Upwards of 60 cadets presented the colors before the start of Friday’s Valley Oak League game against the Oakdale Mustangs. The show of force is a testament to the progress and potential of the program, said Reyes, a first-year instructor.
The program has 185 cadets and for the first time, two instructors. Cerezo is a retired Lieutenant Colonel.
“We’ve been working with them,” Reyes said. “… There’s a lot more involvement and the program is more motivated.”
The two have placed an emphasis on community outreach. The hope is that opportunities like Sunday’s partnership with the California National Guard and the Oakland Raiders will be a regular occurrence.
Reyes would like to foster a relationship with the Stockton Ports and Stockton Thunder.
“We’ve been reaching out to different sports teams in the area,” he said, “and hopefully take this to a different level.”
The cadets attending Sunday’s game are: Tyler Chavez, Christian Parcasio, Jeremy De La Serda, James Jennings and Daniel Navarrette.