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Perfect season for '68 Dawgs
Forty years ago, Rex Holm and his Ceres High varsity football teammates were greeted by more than 500 fans at the old community center on Third Street in downtown Ceres upon returning home from Stockton after defeating St. Mary's 7-6 to claim the Mountain Valley League title and clinch an undefeated season.

The 1968 Bulldogs will be inducted into Ceres High's Athletic Hall of Fame this Sunday. The celebration will take place from 2-4 p.m.

"It's nice to be remembered," Holm said. "I was very fortunate to be a part of it."

Coached by Al Dicarlo, Frank Cusenza, Ben Brenning and Roger Mettler, the Bulldogs fulfilled their goal of an unblemished season (10-0).

"Without them, we wouldn't have gone undefeated," said Osvaldo Bertolotti, who logged playing time on both offense and defense as a sophomore. "He (DiCarlo) reminded me of (NFL Hall of Fame coach) Vince Lombardi. He looked like him. His build. His glasses. The way he talked to people and ran practice."

"That's the best varsity high school team I've ever been associated with," said Cusenza, who spent five years with the Bulldogs before becoming a longtime coach and athletic director at Turlock High School. "We had it all. If they would have had playoffs, we would have won the section."

"That was my first year and I couldn't believe the talent that was out there," said Brenning, who served as a line coach. "They were big, strong, fast and smart. They were a hard-working group. They were focused. They knew they were good and proved it."

Ceres High boasted stars at just about every position.

The Bulldogs' starting offensive unit featured Holm (quarterback), Kerry Machado (halfback), Jack Dillon (wingback), Larry Edgerton (fullback), Darrell Simpson (receiver), Rick Beavers (receiver), Steve Beck (center), Greg Hicks (tackle), Hollie Hall (tackle), Jerry Rowell (guard) and John Hidahl (guard).

Bertolotti (defensive back), Simpson (defensive back), Machado (linebacker), Bill White (defensive back), Kevin Stewart (defensive back), Ricketts (linebacker), Jim McClesky (linebacker), Harold Aycock (defensive end), Jim Bedwell (defensive end), Chris Visser (defensive tackle) and Bob Wilkinson (defensive tackle) started on defense.

Holm ranked among the top 10 quarterbacks in Northern California. He passed for 21 touchdowns.

"He (Rex) was the most intelligent guy on the team," Bertolotti said. "He used to call his own plays. He very rarely made mistakes."

Machado was a standout halfback, linebacker and kicker. He led the Stanislaus District in scoring with 14 touchdowns and 20 extra points.

Ceres High snuck past St. Mary's in the season finale for both teams on a cold and wet night. The Bulldogs took their first lead in the middle of the fourth quarter and held off the Rams.

"You couldn't even see our numbers because it was so muddy," Bertolotti said. "After the game, we took a shower in our uniforms to get it off."

A wide-open Osvaldo caught a 1-yard TD pass from Holm and served as placeholder on Machado's game-winning extra point. Stewart was the snapper. The ball was caked in mud.

"If I would have missed it, I would have been the goat the rest of my life," Kerry said.

The postgame celebration was wild.

"Everybody in our stands came down on the field," Holm said. "That was very unusual then. Lots of pictures being taken."

Ceres High faced a 6-0 deficit at halftime.

"It just wasn't looking like a good day for us because we did a lot of finesse things," Holm said. "The field was a mess. He (Larry) had a huge day. St. Mary's wasn't expecting that."

Edgerton gained 137 yards on 31 carries.

The Bulldogs finished 4-0 in the MVL standings. Sonora (3-1) and St. Mary's (2-2) took second and third, respectively. Los Banos (1-3) and Livingston (1-3) tied for fourth place.

It was one of the most dominant runs in Ceres High's football history, ending a 17-year championship drought.

"We spent so much time together as kids playing baseball, basketball and football," Holm said. "That was our ultimate advantage. We worked well together."

"Nobody dogged it on that team," Bertolotti, said. "That's why we were rewarded at the end of the year."

"We weren't a flashy team," Machado said. "We all just did our job."

Cusenza first caught a glimpse of the 1968 Bulldogs during a workout session prior to the start of the season.

"I walked into the weight room and they looked like junior-college players," he said. "They were buffed. That was a unique group. You don't forget guys like that."