San Benito headed back to CCS Division I championship game

San Benito's Zak Hicks had a team-high 113 yards on 16 carries in a 37-7 win over Alvarez.

SALINAS — As improbable as it may have seemed midway through the season, the San Benito High football team is headed back to the Central Coast Section Division I championship game.
The No. 4 seed Haybalers earned a spot in next week’s title contest by cruising to a 37-7 win over top seed Alvarez in a Saturday night semifinal. Defending champion San Benito (7-5) plays No. 2 Milpitas (10-2), which was a 45-0 winner over No. 3 Piedmont Hills-San Jose, for the championship at 7 p.m. Friday at Rabobank Stadium in Salinas.
It’s a rematch of last year’s final, and the third time the teams have squared off against each other in the championship game since 2009.
“For the new guys like me who weren’t on the varsity last year, we’re hoping to make some great memories next week,” said Balers cornerback Andrew Sotelo, who was one of the standout players against Alvarez, finishing with two interceptions and returning a punt 50 yards. “It’s kind of been a roller coaster of a season, but we’re back on track.”
Are they ever. The Balers looked like the No. 1 seed, not the Eagles (11-1), whose undefeated season came crashing down with a thud. San Benito dominated from the opening kickoff, scoring on its first three drives to make it 17-0 a play into the second quarter.
A 26-yard field goal from John Canes, followed by a pair of touchdown runs covering 11 and 14 yards from Damian Botelho, made it 17-0 with 11:54 left until halftime.
At that point, San Benito had run 23 plays from scrimmage to Alvarez’s six while totaling 127 yards of offense to the Eagles’ four.
Things didn’t get much better for Alvarez from there; in fact, they got a lot worse. The Balers eventually went up 37-0 after Cody Freitas scored on a 34-yard run followed by a pair of Zak Hicks’ TD runs covering 28 and 23 yards, the latter coming with 11:08 left in the fourth quarter.
San Benito’s defense, led by Sotelo and linebackers Cody McGrew and Freitas, had perhaps its finest performance of the season, limiting Alvarez to just 193 yards of total offense. The Balers, meanwhile, totaled 335 yards, with 310 coming on the ground.
“The defense was reading Alvarez’s offense really well,” Balers coach Chris Cameron said. “They had a good sense of what to do, and they smothered them.”
Hicks finished with 113 yards on 16 carries, and Botelho had 66 yards on eight rushes before departing the game with an injury. San Benito completely dominated Alvarez in all three phases, and has outscored two playoff opponents by a combined margin of 99-28.
Playing against Milpitas, however, will be an entirely different story.
“We’re playing well, but Milpitas is a different opponent we’ll be facing,” Cameron said. “They’re right up there with Palo Alto, Los Gatos and Palma, teams we all lost to, so that tells you just how tough a of a team they are.”

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