FOOTBALL: Balers withstand late rally, earn ‘ugly’ win over Alisal

Baler running back James Sanchez carries the ball up field during Friday's 21-14 win over Alisal.

Despite 11 penalties for 95 yards, many of which ended up being
offensive-drive killers, San Benito still managed to control a 21-0
lead at one point and withstood a late Alisal rally en route to a
21-14 victory on Friday night
— the Tri-County Athletic League opener for both teams.
HOLLISTER

The scoreboard Friday night at Andy Hardin Stadium told one outcome. The faces of the San Benito Haybalers told another.

“Not satisfied at all,” Baler linebacker Jon Huaracha said afterward.

“It was ugly,” head coach Chris Cameron said.

“We came out like we did against Oak Grove,” added fullback Cody Hendricks. “We came out like we were hot stuff, and that wasn’t the case.”

A win is a win, though — even the ugly ones count.

Despite 11 penalties for 95 yards, many of which ended up being offensive-drive killers, San Benito still managed to control a 21-0 lead at one point and withstood a late Alisal rally en route to a 21-14 victory on Friday night — the Tri-County Athletic League opener for both teams.

The Trojans scored a pair of touchdowns in the final three minutes of the game when quarterback Michael Barron hit wideout Michael Valdez on a 10-yard touchdown pass with 2:59 remaining, then threaded a 25-yard touchdown pass to receiver Giovann Villalobos down the right sideline with 51 seconds remaining.

Alisal opted for the onside kick, but the bouncing football was recovered by Hendricks, who finished with a game-high 120 yards on 18 carries.

Afterward, the senior fullback felt the game shouldn’t have been close, or at least close enough where an onside-kick recovery held such importance.

“In my opinion, our score should have been in the 30s and they shouldn’t have scored at all,” said Hendricks, who is averaging nearly seven yards a carry through five games this season. “But they played hard and they played real well.”

The game had a much different outcome than last year’s blowout — a 44-0 drubbing delivered by San Benito (3-2, 1-0 TCAL).

Who knows what the score would have been Friday night had penalties not been an issue, though. Neither team seemed to find the right offensive gear, and while San Benito set a season-high in penalty yardage Friday, the Trojans hit the century mark — 12 penalties for 100 yards.

“I think it affected us big time,” Alisal head coach Sunil Smith said.

And that may be an understatement.

Trailing just 7-0 at halftime, the Trojans were called for a personal foul penalty on fourth-and-five at their own 24-yard line midway through the third quarter. San Benito, which had initially opted to kick a 41-yard field goal on fourth-and-five, instead got a new set of downs at the Alisal 12.

On the very next play, Hendricks got around the left end and broke a pair of tackles before diving into the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown, giving San Benito a 14-point cushion instead of a 10-point lead.

“Some were questionable. Some were game-changing moments,” Smith said of the penalties.

The Balers even had one of their own. A 29-yard touchdown run by Hendricks was negated after San Benito was called for illegal motion.

Yes, at certain points Friday night, the TCAL opener instead resembled a Week 0 matchup.

“We didn’t play well and we had 800 penalties,” Cameron said. “We never got into any type of rhythm. We had every penalty in the book tonight and we had some on defense, too.

“Obviously, they put a damper on things. But I don’t think we came out real inspired, either.”

Friday’s league contest was certainly played under different circumstances. The game was initially scheduled to be played at Alisal High in Salinas, but a reported shooting at the campus Friday morning forced school officials to move the game to Hollister.

Cameron didn’t feel the venue change had any influence toward San Benito’s slow start, however.

“We’re just not playing as a unit right now,” Huaracha said. “It was definitely a setback in our season.”

A scoreless game didn’t change until midway through the second quarter when the Balers, who started their scoring drive in Alisal territory, marched 46 yards on eight plays, culminating with a 7-yard run up the middle by James Sanchez.

However, Sanchez broke several tackles on the play before he fumbled the football just as he was falling toward the goal line. The loose football rolled into the end zone, though, where teammate Anthony Cervantes smothered the pigskin for a 7-0 Haybaler lead.

The defense only served to protect San Benito’s narrow lead, as Alisal couldn’t crack the Balers at all. With no luck in the passing game — the quarterback Barron was 2 of 10 for 11 yards in the first half — the Trojans relied on the rush, but to no avail; They were held to just 20 yards of total offense in the first half, including nine yards rushing on 11 carries.

“We took them as if we were playing Palo Alto. We took them as a powerhouse team,” Huaracha said.

Even with the breaks in the second half, Alisal couldn’t find paydirt. On their second offensive possession of the third quarter, while trailing 14-0, Trojan running back Johnny Morales broke a 48-yard run down the left sideline, which included a 15-yard personal foul penalty on San Benito that moved the ball to the San Benito 17.

But a holding penalty on Alisal pushed the ball back to the 31, and subsequently halted the drive. The Trojans went for it on fourth-and-13 from the Baler 20, but Enrique Ramos and Adrian Enriquez teamed up for a key sack, one of five on the night for San Benito.

The Balers then had their punt blocked on the ensuing possession, supplying Alisal with the ball at the San Benito 17. But, again, three straight plays netted zero yards for the Trojans, who went for it on fourth-and-10 only to be sacked again, this time by Marcos Silva.

“We need to learn to finish off opponents,” Cameron said. “But they just keep on, keepin’ on.”

It was the defense that set up the offense midway through the fourth quarter when cornerback Matt Vallejo recovered a fumble to give San Benito the ball at the Trojan 39. One play and two penalties later, Cervantes received a pitch around the right side and sprinted 21 yards untouched to the end zone and a 21-0 lead.

Of course, Alisal did manage to keep the game interesting. Held to just 20 yards in the first half, the Trojans finished with 202 yards of total offense, with Barron leading the way to the tune of 114 yards passing and Johnny Morales with 99 yards rushing.

“I told my kids, I’ll sleep fine tonight because I know they left everything on the field. They played 48 minutes,” Smith said. “I’m happy the kids responded to the challenge.”

Despite earning the win, the sentiments weren’t at all similar on the opposing sideline.

“We should have held them in the end,” Huaracha said. “We may have let up, which was the worst decision. They could have came back at any moment.”

San Benito will need to clean everything up prior to next week’s home game against Salinas, which lost 14-0 to Palma on Friday night.

“We’ve just got to play a lot harder than this,” Hendricks said. “This was a horrible night.”

TEAM 1 2 3 4 F

ALIS 0 0 0 14 14

SANB 0 7 7 7 21

SCORING SUMMARY

Second Quarter

FUMBLE RECOVERY (6:27) — SANB, Anthony Cervantes, PAT (Tino Granados) is good; 7-0, SANB.

Third Quarter

RUSH (4:28) — SANB, Cody Hendricks, 12-yard touchdown, PAT (Tino Granados) is good; 14-0, SANB.

Fourth Quarter

RUSH (5:47) — SANB, Anthony Cervantes, 21-yard touchdown, PAT (Tino Granados) is good; 21-0, SANB.

PASS (2:59) — ALIS, Michael Barron to Michael Valdez, 10-yard touchdown, PAT (Rafael Camacho) is good; 21-7, SANB.

PASS (:51) — ALIS, Michael Barron to Giovann Villalobos, 25-yard touchdown, PAT (Rafael Camacho) is good; 21-14, SANB.

ALISAL STATISTICS

Passing: Michael Barron — 8 of 24, 114 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception. Rushing: Michael Barron — 8 attempts, -32 yards; Taylor Tomas — 2 attempts, 11 yards; Johnny Morales — 12 attempts, 99 yards; Oscar Pearson — 5 attempts, 10 yards. Receiving: Oscar Puga — 3 receptions, 20 yards; Taylor Tomas — 2 receptions, 40 yards; Michael Valdez — 1 reception, 10 yards, 1 touchdown; Giovann Villalobos — 2 receptions, 44 yards, 1 touchdown.

SAN BENITO STATISTICS

Passing: Tyler Decker — 3 of 9, 45 yards. Rushing: Tyler Decker — 16 attempts, 18 yards; Cody Hendricks, 18 attempts, 120 yards, 1 touchdown; James Sanchez — 9 attempts, 36 yards; Brandon Rodriguez — 1 attempt, 1 yard; Anthony Cervantes — 4 attempts, 36 yards, 2 touchdowns; Michael Bocksnick — 1 attempt, -3 yards; Nate Valencia — 1 attempt, -15 yards; Anthony Kaye — 1 attempt, 6 yards; Jacob De Leon — 1 attempt, 1 yard. Receiving: Brandon Rodriguez — 1 reception, 8 yards; Anthony Cervantes — 1 reception, 31 yards; James Sanchez — 1 reception, 6 yards.

TOTAL OFFENSE

Alisal — 202 yards (114 pass, 88 rush).

San Benito — 245 yards (45 pass, 200 rush).

TURNOVERS

Alisal — 2

San Benito — 0

SACKS

Alisal — 3 (Ivan Ramos, David Birlem, Alexis Politron) for -17 yards.

San Benito — 5 (Conner Stevens, Damon Perez, Ryan Di Salvo, Adrian Enriquez, Enrique Ramos, Marcos Silva) for -34 yards.

PENALTIES

Alisal — 12 for 100 yards.

San Benito — 11 for 95 yards.

JV Note:

The San Benito junior varsity football lost to Alisal 21-14 Friday night at Andy Hardin Stadium in Hollister.

The Balers will host Salinas next Friday at 5 p.m.

Frosh Note:

The San Benito freshmen football team defeated Alisal 34-16 Friday night at Andy Hardin Stadium in Hollister

The Balers will host Salinas next Thursday at 6 p.m.

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