Entering the Balers’ first round Central Coast Section playoff game Friday, the San Benito coaching staff has harped on one common message: Alisal is not the same team the Balers are used to.
“It’s not the same Alisal,” SBHS head coach Chris Cameron said. “I hope we don’t go into the game thinking they are. If we do, we will be down a lot real fast. We can’t let that happen.”
After squeezing in to the CCS Division I playoffs as the No. 6 seed, San Benito (5-5, 3-3) will travel to Salinas to battle former league opponent Alisal (8-2, 5-1). It won’t be an average game for the Trojans, who will host their first ever CCS game in the school 50-plus year history. The Trojans will enter the game still looking for its first playoff win.
“This Alisal team is probably the best one I’ve seen,” Cameron said. “They are good. We have to play a great four quarters to beat these guys. Hopefully, we will be ready to go in there. I know they will be ready.”
The Balers, who own a three-game winning streak over the Trojans, will be on the road to open the playoffs for the first time since traveling to Mountain View to play St. Francis in 1998.
After an injury riddled season where the Balers lost their starting quarterback in the season’s first half of football, getting to the playoffs isn’t good enough for San Benito after winning its league championship a year ago.
“We want to go out and win,” Cameron said. “We have to approach this for the seniors like this is their last football game. Every down is one more closer to them being finished. They have to go out there and win every down. Win every single down. That’s going to be our mentality throughout the night. We have to compete to win.”
And that starts with making sure the Balers don’t underestimate Alisal, which is going to the playoffs for the fourth time since 2003.
“That’s what I’m trying to knock out of them right now,” Cameron said on Wednesday. “I’ve spent a lot of time on that today. I’ll do the same tomorrow.”
The Balers will need to rely on a strong run defense on Friday against the Trojan rushing attack, which has gained more than 2,100 yards in 10 games. Led by Ricardo Muniz’s 716 yards and five touchdowns, the Trojans have three rushers who have run for more than 300 yards and five touchdowns.
Quarterback Ezequiel Gonzales serves as a dual threat for the Trojans with 419 yards on the ground and another 795 through the air.
“They are a good football team,” Cameron said. “A tough physical football team. They take on the personality of their head coach (Sunil Smith). He does a really good job. The staff does a really good job coaching those guys. They play hard. Year in and year out they play hard. They come after you.”
To come away with the victory, SBHS must protect the ball and force some timely turnovers, Cameron said.
“Turnovers play a large role in this,” he said. “We have to be able to hang onto the football. I would love to see us score four or five touchdowns. In a perfect world and just play stones on defense. It’s going to be a tough game.”
The winner will advance to the second round against either Salinas or Fremont.