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Baptista Selected Escalon’s Homecoming King For ‘23
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It was a family affair for the Baptista family of Escalon as senior Matthew Baptista, center, was named as the 2023 Homecoming King at halftime of the Friday night, Jan. 13 varsity basketball game. Reacting to his selection are, from left, sister Kaitlyn, dad Paul, mom Christine and brother Michael Baptista. Kaitlyn and Michael were the 2021 Homecoming Queen and King for Escalon High. Marg Jackson/The Times

It can officially now be considered a family tradition.

The third in his family to be crowned as Homecoming royalty, senior Matthew Baptista was chosen as the 2023 Homecoming King for Escalon High School on Friday night. He was announced as the new king during halftime festivities at the Jan. 13 varsity basketball game. The team did its job for Homecoming as well, taking a win off the court against visiting Livingston.

Prior to his win for 2023, Matthew’s older siblings – Kaitlyn and Michael – were crowned as the EHS Homecoming Queen and King in 2021.

“It feels good, I mean, I didn’t expect it, honestly; I didn’t even expect to be a candidate,” Matthew said. “Just being appreciated and everything by my peers, and everyone voting for me feels good.”

The varsity basketball win was icing on the cake for what Matthew said was a memorable week.

“It was pretty fun, all the dress up days and everything, it was all fun, just a good Homecoming week,” he said.

At EHS, Matthew has been involved with both football and soccer and is the son of Paul and Christine Baptista. He plans to attend junior college after high school and said his best high school memory was winning the state football championship. His parents and siblings accompanied him to center court on Friday night.

He offered thanks to his family for supporting him and also thanked his senior classmates for making it a “great four years of high school.”

Candidate Jack Anderson was escorted to center court by his parents David and Alisa and his sister Skylar. His plans after high school include going to San Diego State and majoring in kinesiology.

Logan Anderson’s escorts for the Homecoming festivities were his dad Matt and brother Luke Anderson. Following high school, Logan plans to play college football and get a degree.

Owen Nash was accompanied by his parents, Nate and Carrie Nash – his mom was Escalon High School’s Homecoming Queen of 1989. Following high school graduation, Owen said he plans to continue his football career “at the best opportunity presented” to him and hopes to teach history and coach football in the future.

Candidate Ryker Peters was escorted to center court by his parents, Paul and Rachel Peters. He plans to attend MJC to play football and then transfer to a four-year school to continue his education. His best high school memory, he said, was “winning the state championship and sliding through the mud” on Engel Field.

Serving as emcees for the evening were Katelyn Kjellberg and Janesa Aldasoro. They welcomed the crowd, introduced the candidates and read the prepared statements submitted by the five honorees, as well as welcoming back Alfonso Gonzalez, the 2022 Homecoming King, who was able to attend and crown his successor.

On the court, it was a thrilling game for the varsity Cougars, as they built up a big lead and held the Livingston Wolves at bay to take the TVL contest. Earlier, the freshman and JV teams lost close contests, but the varsity was able to put the win on the books to celebrate the end of the Homecoming evening.

Candidate Jack Anderson, who paced the Cougars with 20 points in the victory, said it was an important week for the varsity team.

“Over the past couple of weeks we’ve had some bad losses, we haven’t been producing as much offensively, it was nice to finally get in the gym, we had a packed crowd, a good environment … we’re playing well and it can be a good turning point for the rest of our season,” Anderson said. “It was just really big tonight to get a win and not let the whole community down if the whole three teams got swept.”

The varsity team was firing on all cylinders, playing their most complete game of the campaign so far.

“Just more energy, I think the crowd brought that at first,” Anderson noted, adding that shots started to fall and the Cougars gained more confidence as the game moved along.

Part of that confidence also came from a double overtime road win on Jan. 11, getting their first TVL win of the season over rival Ripon after a pair of losses.

“That had to be the best moment of my high school career,” the senior admitted. “That would have been a really bad loss, to go 0-3 to start league, struggle to make the playoffs if we don’t win that one and just against Ripon made it so much better to win a game like that. It was amazing.”

Freshman Logan Huebner has also made his presence felt and stepped up with another strong game against the Wolves.

“It feels awesome; I used to look up to these guys (junior and senior teammates) as a kid, I would sit in the stands and watch them. I didn’t think I would make it up here (on varsity) as a freshman but it’s a dream come true,” Huebner said. “I’ve been working all summer, playing basketball at open gyms, and just putting in the work.”

For senior Zack Valencia, capping off the week with the Homecoming win made for a sweet victory, and it was the overtime game earlier in the week that fueled the fire.

“I knew we had to keep our momentum, winning away at Ripon was huge for us but we had to focus on tonight and the scoreboard shows it,” Valencia said of the 75-52 final. “I mean the student section, the guys, we all brought the energy, and to win on Homecoming is amazing, I couldn’t be more happy. We played well. We played well as a team … it’s my last one of these (Homecoming events); it’s surreal, to come out, the first home game in league and put up this (win), it was amazing.”

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A loud and enthusiastic student cheering section was on hand for the Friday night Homecoming contest at Escalon High, here chanting “We want AJ” – asking for junior AJ Cerasi to be put in the game. They got their wish in the fourth quarter, erupting in cheers when he took the court. Marg Jackson/The Times
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The Homecoming Court for 2023 included candidates, from left, Ryker Peters, Owen Nash, King Matthew Baptista, Logan Anderson, in basketball uniform; and Jack Anderson, in basketball uniform. The candidates were accompanied to center court by a combination of family members, including parents and siblings. Marg Jackson/The Times
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Serving as emcees for the evening were Homecoming Commissioners Katelyn Kjellberg and Janesa Aldasoro; they welcomed the crowd and introduced the candidates. Marg Jackson/The Times