Football: Pieces to the puzzle

The Baler defense once again shut down the offense of the opposing team's leading San Benito to the TCAL title and in to the CCS playoffs.

Twenty-three.

That’s more than a number for the 2011 San Benito Haybalers football squad. More than anything else, that number represents the biggest reason why the Balers find themselves in the position they are now – the third seed in the Central Coast Section Open Division playoffs, which begin 7 p.m. Friday against Archbishop Mitty at San Benito High.

Through six Tri-County Athletic League games, the Balers defense has given up 23 points. Against two of the highest-scoring teams in the region – Palma and Gilroy – the Baler defense allowed only 9 points. The defense has been so good, they have allowed 10 more points than the Baler offense has given up on turnovers – 23 to 13.

The defense is the biggest reason why the team can call itself TCAL champions for the first time since 2005.

“The kids just play their (butts) off,” head coach Chris Cameron said. “They understand the scheme really well. We haven’t gotten super complicated with it. At the beginning of the season we had some things we were going through, but we’ve gotten a lot better at it.”

He continued: “Right now, we have 11 guys hitting on all cylinders as opposed to nine. The kids have bought in. The guys are just able to pin their ears back and go.”

And the numbers show just that.

Through 10 games, San Benito has allowed less than 2,000 total yards from opposing offenses. At the same time, the Baler offense has gained over 3,000 total yards.

The team has returned two turnovers for touchdowns and has five players that have recorded an interception this year.

The defense has been led by its strong front seven that includes seniors Ryan Di Salvo, Jonathan Huaracha and Luis Orozco. Juniors Lionel Munguia, Damon Perez and Ricardo Sosa have also played vital roles on the defense. All 11 players on the field at any time are important to the squad.

Huaracha, the team’s middle linebacker and leading tackler, serves as the emotional leader of the defense and focal point of team’s tough, physical approach.

“Our mentality is how it’s been since day one – it’s to go out and hit people as hard as we can and stopping the run right off the bat so we get them into bad situations,” Huaracha said.

And that mentality stems from the team’s overall toughness.

“Hollister is always tough,” Huaracha said. “All of our kids on defense are tough.”

Toughness is something the coaches preach from the first time the players step onto the San Benito field, Cameron said.

“That’s a preaching thing,” he said. “We are trying to be as physical at the point of attack as possible. The ‘backers are running through blocks and running through kids that have the ball.”

He continued, “We teach this physical thing from day one and the guys have all bought it.”

To create that level of success, Cameron describes his defense as three moving and distinct pieces – the line, the linebackers and the secondary. Each level is taught a different thing, but they all fall under the same mindset. They are all important cogs in the entire team’s structure.

“It’s simple things,” he said. “It’s fundamental teaching of each position.”

Together, each skill will blend together to create the cohesive and physical defense that flies to the football, he said.

“They are different pieces that work together,” he said.

And each player recognizes each other’s contributions.

“We all play together – all 11 of us fly to the football and we have that mentality that we just get after it,” cornerback Cody Cameron said. “We have to pop them in the mouth, and I think a lot of teams are seeing that. We just have a faster-paced defense and we just get to the ball really fast – we get after it.”

And that success starts up front, he said.

“We just pound the run – teams just can’t run the ball on us,” Cody Cameron said.

The front has been the glue that’s held the defense together and allowed them to be so successful, Huaracha said.

“I think it all starts with the front seven,” he said. “A lot of people were talking that we lost a lot of people and we weren’t going to be really put up a defense let’s say. We really mesh together well. We know our weaknesses and we know our strengths, and we execute well all together.”

And the number 23 shows just that.

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