A celebration was held Sunday night that put an exclamation point on the season that ended with an appearance by the Generals football team in the State Championship game in December.
A ring ceremony was held and the team was presented with their championship rings, made by Baron Ring Co.
The event was attended by the players, coaches, family and friends at Shafter's Ford Theater. A dinner was included, along with several speakers, and a special video prepared by Coach Jerald Pierucci and his student team that are in his media class.
The ring is a massive piece of jewelry that is encrusted with gems with the Generals logo on it, provided by a large group of sponsors from the community, who, according to Pierucci, are a major reason for their success. "Shafter is a special community, with fans who have been there for us through so many ups and downs, faithful on every Friday night, giving this and every other team in General history support like no other."
Pierucci talked to the crowd about the amazing season, telling the gathering that this was an outcome that almost wasn't. "This fairytale post-season wouldn't have happened at all without the wisdom of my wife, Jodie," he said.
Pierucci has a hard and fast rule when it comes to the playoffs. For his team to go to the playoffs, they have to have at least a .500 record. Well, after the loss to Kennedy High School, the Generals sat at just a game above .500, preparing to face rivals Wasco the next week. Pierucci and his staff didn't know if the team was prepared, or even deserved to go to the post-season. "I was thinking of refusing the invitation to the playoffs," he said. "I really didn't think that we deserved to go to the playoffs.
"I told my wife about this, and she said that she didn't agree with me. 'Jerald, you told those kids that they have to have a .500 record to go to the playoffs. I don't think that you should go back on that. I really think that you should be the man that I know that you are.' "
Pierucci decided to take the kids to the playoffs, and the rest is history. The Generals made an amazing run, beating the number #9, #4 and #3 seeds on their way to Shafter's first Valley championship in 67 years.
"I want to thank our principal, Russell Shipley, our athletic director, Brian Feaster, my amazing coaching staff, the parents and our fans for such a wonderful season."
Another major role in their success, according to Pierucci, was the decision that was made to have him move to the press box, instead of spending the game on the sidelines. "I needed to do this, for our players, myself, and our staff. I was not contributing what I should have been doing on the sideline. This turned out to be a smart decision for our kids, our staff and myself as a man and a coach."
Also speaking at the event was Maleek Diaz. Diaz has been taking pictures for the team for a few years. He spearheaded a project that culminated in banners being made for the team and the school, displaying the championship season that Shafter had. These will hang in the Shafter High gymnasium to honor this team.
The last speaker of the night was Gary Kern. Kern is a long-time educator at Shafter High and has been a faithful and fervent fan of the Generals for decades.
"I was born a week before Shafter's Valley championship in 1949. I couldn't make it to that one, but I have been there for every Generals championship appearance since then," said Kern. He was surprised and touched, when after he spoke, Pierucci announced that Kern would be receiving his own championship ring, along with the players, staff and coaches.
Pierucci ended the night by saying that this season was one for the ages, but he also said that he believes that it will not be another 67 years before another appearance is made. "I plan on holding another one of these ring ceremonies in the near future," which was met with a thunder of applause. With the majority of the team returning next year, they may be contacting Baron Ring Co. well before the year 2089.