Joining the Richmond football team changed Cesar Munoz’s life. Before football, Munoz says, he was gang affiliated and “was in deep stuff.” But at the end of this summer, he decided to play football for the first time. The junior lineman made it through the entire season, with the positive encouragement of his coaches and teammates.
“I got close with all of my teammates and all of my classmates and they helped me a lot,” Munoz said. “The coaches meant a lot to me because they definitely encouraged me. Coach (Clyde) Byrd, he truly liked me on the team and I didn’t want to give up on him.”
Munoz, Byrd and the rest of the Oilers celebrated a season of on-and-off the field success with an awards ceremony Wednesday night in the downstairs dining room of the Living Hope Neighborhood Church. Players, coaches, and some family members attended the event, which capped off the team’s 2012 season.
Second-year coach Tashaka Merriweather opened the evening by deferring to his coaching staff for their thoughts on the season.
Coach David Forbes spoke specifically about the growth he saw in seniors Lamont Foggy — who worked to control his emotions — and Jonathan Mejia — who persevered through the season — and used their examples as a broader lesson to the other players in attendance. “As you move on in your life think about two things,” Forbes said. “Don’t let your emotions get the best of you and don’t quit.”
Coaches from different positions then gave out certificates of achievement to the individual players, taking a few words to talk about their season. Coach Dexter Parish praised Munoz, saying, “I really admire him for making a change in his life.”
Several Oilers received Tri-County Athletic League Stone Division All-league honors: Devonte Anderson, Nethaniel House and Daronte Shaw received honorable mention honors, and Deshawn Clark, Tra’von Clay, Jorge Diaz, Lamont Foggy and Benjamin Gannon all received first-team honors.
Edfre Flores received the team’s most-improved award. Running backs Nethaniel House and Tra’von Clay shared offensive most valuable player awards, and linebacker Jorge Diaz and cornerback Deshawn Clark shared defensive most valuable player awards. Diaz also received the team’s captain award, and Nestor Quinonez was the inaugural winner of the Oiler award, given to a player who shows character throughout the entire season.
His team finished with a 2-8 record, but won two of its last three games – an improvement from last year’s 1-9 season in Merriweather’s first year. The coach, when it was his turn to speak, praised his team for his perseverance.
“I always tell my kids never quit, Merriweather said afterward. “But this team truly never quit,” Merriweather said. “We hadn’t won any games in our first seven games, but they kept showing up to practice. They kept sticking to the things that the coaches said and they endured and we had success in our last three games.”
After his first awards ceremony as a member of the Oiler football team, Munoz said he has some goals that he would like to achieve. “I want to get a trophy, a medal and all of that,” Munoz said, pointing to his teammates’ trophy on the table. “And I want to leave a good legacy.”
But for Merriweather, players like Munoz are why he loves coaching.
“It is not always about the wins,” Merriweather said. “I love winning, but if we are able to teach a young man something that will make him a productive citizen, than that is a bigger win than any trophy.”