No ordinary homecoming

Most schools schedule softies for their homecoming football
game. Not Hollister High.
Most schools schedule softies for their homecoming football game. Not Hollister High.

The Balers are taking on the best in Salinas, which treks to Andy Hardin Field for a 7:30 p.m. tilt Friday. The Cowboys are 7-1, 3-0 in the Tri-County Athletic League. Their only loss was to Alvarez, which the Balers tied. A victory over Hollister (4-3-1, 2-1) would ensure the Cowboys of at least a tie for the TCAL crown.

Hollister defensive coordinator Tod Thatcher paid the Cowboys, second-ranked in the Central Coast Section, the ultimate compliment.

“I think they’re better than Valley Christian,” said Thatcher. “They bring more to the table. They’re simple by design. They have athletes that can flat-out play. They’re big up front and are loaded with skill players who have been around for awhile. If you’re not prepared for them, you’re in trouble.”

Valley Christian, the top-ranked team in CCS, dismantled the Balers 38-0 Sept. 6.

Hollister will be without the services of their top running back, Trenton Young, who was dismissed from the team earlier this week for undisclosed reasons. Young’s season ends with 783 yards rushing and six TDs. He’ll be replaced in the backfield by sophomore Chris Brigantino.

“Chris doesn’t have the experience,” said Baler offensive coordinator Rick Dukes. “But he runs tough. Hard. He’s practiced all this week.”

Dukes was pleased with the play of his offensive line last Saturday in the Balers’ 31-22 loss to North Salinas. That, even though starting guard Ty Doty was out with a knee injury.

“We played about as well as we could play,” said Dukes. “We made a few mistakes, a few penalties. But, overall, we played well.”

The offensive line consists of Clay Peer at center, Byron McGee at left guard, Jonathan Lopez at right guard, either J.D. Clapham or Cameron Murray at right tackle and Phil Leonard at left tackle. Shawn Beaver or Oscar Correa will fill the all-important tight end spot.

Clapham, who played in all 13 games a year ago, played well last week after coming off a knee injury. However, he banged up a shoulder on Monday and may be limited on Friday.

Dukes is concerned about the Cowboy defense, spearheaded by two-way back Christian Taylor, a Division I college prospect. Chris Choate, an outstanding tight end, is also a factor in the Salinas secondary and defensive back Travis Dozier had four interceptions in the Cowboys’ big win over Palma.

“They’re physical and tough up front,” said Dukes. “They have speed in the secondary. We have to control the ball. Something we tried to do against North Salinas. Salinas is an experienced football team. They have players who have played together on varsity all three years.”

Offensively, quarterback Andy Palacios is a threat to break one out of the option. The Cowboys in general have more speed than the Balers, as did North Salinas and as will Palma. So Thatcher and Dukes concur that today’s projected downpour wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen to Hollister.

“Rain would help us,” said Thatcher. “It would help slow them down. They also have a tendency to put the ball on the ground. If it’s slippery, that would add to it. I’ve always said that if a team is better than you on paper, weather could equal things out.”

Salinas head coach Mark Ironside remembers very well last year’s Division II CCS championship game in which the Cowboys held off a surging Baler team 7-6. The field at Gilroy High was an absolute mess.

“We look at the film of that game and we still can’t believe it,” said Ironside. “It was ridiculous. We would have driven to San Jose. A Division IV game gets played on the nice field, but Division II game has to play in the mud.”

Ironside expects a legitimate head-knocker at Andy Hardin Field on Friday.

“It’s always a tough game when we play Hollister,” said Ironside. “They’re well-coached and have aggressive kids. I’m worried about their quarterback (Lee Osborne); we’ll be out to stop him. And that No. 32 (halfback Armando Larez) runs pretty well. We’re peaking right now, but we’d like to play a little better, though.”

Without the presence of Young, the pressure on Osborne and Larez to produce increases. Still, a Baler victory will most likely depend on the defense. If the Cowboys don’t score, they can’t win.

“They have great athletes,” said Baler safety P.J. Galvan. “If we play the way we’re capable of playing, we can beat them.”

“Every person has to play every down 100 per cent,” said Baler nose tackle Brandon Para. “It’s going to take a lot of heart. They have the better athletes, but we have to pound them and pound them until the whistle blows.”

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