Sotelo a versatile talent

San Benito High senior Andrew Sotelo was diagnosed with osteochondritis dissecans, a condition in which bone underneath the cartilage of a joint dies due to a lack of blood flow.

Andrew Sotelo never played a down of organized football until his freshman year at San Benito High.
A 5-foot-10, 165-pound junior, Sotelo wasn’t even going to play football until his grandfather, Bill Johnson, an assistant coach on the junior varsity squad, told him he should try out for the freshmen team.
The rest, as they say, is history. The Haybalers, who opened up the season last Friday with a 42-0 thrashing of Hilmar, host Palo Alto at 7:30 p.m. Friday in their home opener.
“It definitely felt good to be back into the swing of things,” said Sotelo, who plays cornerback, wide receiver and returns punts and kickoffs. “We expected Hilmar to be a good team—which they were—but we expected a tiny bit more out of them. I think we lived up to our standards and did a good job of holding them to a zero. It was important for the defense to put up that goose egg.”
Sotelo, who along with safety Austin Cascio had an interception in the game, said there was significance in the shutout, noting the team’s backup players—all of the starters were done midway through the third quarter—were able to finish the performance.
Balers coach Chris Cameron said there were positives in just about every phase of the game.
“Things tend to go well when you execute, and I thought we executed decently on both sides of the ball,” he said. “The kicking game went well, too. There wasn’t really anything flashy about the team’s performance. It was more of a nuts and bolts type deal, where everyone was doing what they were supposed to do. It was a step in the right direction for us, but we’ll play better teams starting this week.”
Palo Alto easily handled San Benito 28-7 last year; however, the perennial Central Coast Section powers are probably evenly matched this season from a talent standpoint.
“Palo Alto is a good football program, but I’m not seeing the starlets,” Cameron said. “All of the (Division I-caliber and high profile) guys they’ve had, I don’t see those kind of guys on the field for them right now. Maybe the next generation is working its way up, but I see the playing field being a little more level. Hey, as a coach, you can’t ask for more than that.”
The Balers overwhelmed a Hilmar squad that went 12-1 last year and reached the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship game. San Benito rushed for a whopping 396 yards, including 318 in the first half.
Eleven different players ran the ball for the Balers, who didn’t punt until the third quarter. Kyle Cameron, the coach’s son, had a 72-yard touchdown run to put the team up 28-0 just seconds before the completion of the first quarter.
Quarterback R.J. Clark had TD runs of 11 and 1 yards, and backup signal-caller Daniel Hopkins completed a 21-yard TD pass to make it 42-0 with 8:19 remaining in the third quarter.
Despite tweaking his right ankle in the opening minutes of the game, Sotelo was in great spirits as he prepared for Monday’s practice. Known for his fearlessness and fundamentals, Sotelo will be playing receiver for the first time in his career, meaning he’s rarely going to get a breather.
“It’s a load, but it should be a lot of fun,” he said. “I’ve been working on learning the craft and running routes with (Balers receivers) coach (Bob) Rawles. It’s going to be interesting to see what I can do.”
Particularly on Friday, when the Vikings roll into town. Palo Alto defeated Sequoia-Redwood City 30-28 last week, as tailback Jayshawn Puckett rushed for 149 yards on 28 carries.
“Palo Alto has a shifty running back and good receivers, but with the way our defense played, we should be able to handle them pretty well,” Sotelo said.
The versatile Sotelo played baseball and basketball growing up, but football has become his passion. Last year as a sophomore Sotelo gained confidence with each passing game, and Cameron said that benefited the team in a huge way.
“I remember in last year’s game against Palma he’s tackling a much bigger player in the open field, and the same thing in the Milpitas game,” Cameron said. “He’s courageous, a great competitor and is playing with a ton of confidence.”

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