Late Baler rally falls short as Vikes win 31-22

North Salinas scatback Ronnie Drummer had Hollister High
defenders grabbing at air on more than one occasion Friday night at
the Salinas Sports Complex as the Vikings celebrated
homecoming.
SALINAS – North Salinas scatback Ronnie Drummer had Hollister High defenders grabbing at air on more than one occasion Friday night at the Salinas Sports Complex as the Vikings celebrated homecoming. The Balers, who saw a valiant comeback fall short in a 31-22 setback, can only hope they’re not left grabbing air at a possible Central Coast Section playoff berth.

The Balers (4-3-1, 2-1 Tri-County Athletic League) next play the second-ranked team in the CCS in Salinas in Friday’s homecoming game. After that, it’s third-ranked Palma on Nov. 15 at the SSC. They’ll probably have to win both games to ensure themselves a tie for the TCAL title, which would, in turn, get them to CCS. A split might not be good enough.

“We have some tough games to play,” said the Balers Brandon Para, who had at least three tackles-for-loss from his nosetackle position. “We know we’re capable of winning. We just have to do it.”

The Balers rallied from 25-7 to trail just 25-22 against the Vikings (4-4, 2-1) with 9:40 left to play. After yielding a first down, North Salinas was forced to punt. Hollister took over the ball at its own 37 with 6:20 on the fourth quarter clock. Baler quarterback Lee Osborne threw to Armando Larez for three yards. A run by Larez netted nothing as the Balers called timeout at 5:12. Osborne then dropped back, took a slight roll to his right and threw back left about 25 yards downfield. Waiting was the Vikings Pete Vasquez, who picked it off. The Baler defense pushed the Vikings back a minus net of three yards on the next three plays, then called another timeout at 3:12.

A short Vikings punt put the ball at the Balers’ 29. Trenton Young, who rushed for 87 yards on 20 carries, ran for two on first down. Osborne hit wideout Chris Uribe on the next play. Uribe, a real fighter on kickoff and punt returns, wriggled his way in traffic for a few more yards. Uribe appeared to have the first down when the ball stripped by Vikings defensive back P.J. Daye. Daye returned the fumble to the Balers 23 and the game was pretty much done.

“He wasn’t protecting the ball,” said Daye of Uribe. “We’re always taught to hunt for the football.”

Drummer, who had a 41-yard TD scamper early in the game, scored from 21 yards out as he sliced through the heart of the Baler defense while trying to run out the clock with 13 seconds left. Drummer, who played about 65 per cent of the time on offense, had a 136-yard rushing night on 17 attempts.

“Our speed won over their strength,” said Vikings coach Tracy Filice. “We had some lucky breaks and took advantage.”

Trailing 10-0, Osborne put the Balers on the board with a 15-yard option run over the right side with 7:44 left in the second period. North Salinas quarterback Michael Yates, who passed for just over 100 yards, hit Koa Afoa for a 15-yard TD pass with just 24 seconds left in the first half.

The real stickler for the Balers was the Vikings initial drive to start the second half. North Salinas came right down the field in nine plays as Eric Colancho plunged over from one-yard out.

The Balers didn’t help themselves on the ensuing play from scimmage. From his own 14, Osborne rolled to his left as if to pass. The ball squirted loose and rolled all the way back into the end zone. With Vikings charging hard, Osborne scooped the ball up and threw it willy-nilly. The nearest official ruled Osborne grounded the ball illegally, which meant the Balers were assessed a safety for committing a penalty in the end zone. Replays showed that Young was in the area as a receiver and that the penalty was dubious at best.

The Balers, to their credit, didn’t quit. Chris Stephens recovered a Vikings fumble at the Hollister 37. A roughing penalty on Osborne moved the ball to the North Salinas 46. Young started to assert himself on the ground with 32 yards on the next four carries, down to the Vikes 18. Four plays later, Larez swept left end from four yards out and a TD.

The Balers Kenny Romero recovered the onside kick as the Vikes were caught napping. Young capped a 10-play drive with a four-yard bull rush over right guard. The Balers converted the two-point conversion on a sweep by Larez.

But it was too little, too late.

“I was kind of scared when Hollister came back,” said the Vikes massive two-way tackle Carl Nicks. “We had to play our hearts out to win.”

Baler head coach Chris Cameron was disconsolate, knowing that the loss was devastating and that the schedule doesn’t get any easier from here on out.

“They took it to us,” said Cameron of North Salinas. “We played scared. We lined up wrong defensively on the first two plays. We had a couple of bad snaps on offense. I thought North Salinas was tired at the end, but we couldn’t execute.”

JV result: Hollister 14, North Salinas 6. The Balers (3-4-1) had a TD run from Gabriel Gaitan and a one-handed TD grab from Breyon Canez from Karson Klauer. Raul Marta came up with the special teams play of the day when he recovered a fumbled punt.

Frosh result: North Salinas 33, Hollister 12. Dave Martinez returned a 65-yard kickoff for a score, then added another TD run for the Balers’ two tallies.

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