Balers hit rough times in Gabilan Division

The Balers' Agustin Cortes juggles the ball during a 6-1 loss to Alvarez on Feb. 12.

A year ago, the San Benito High boys soccer team was completing a historic season, winning the Monterey Bay League Pacific Division championship.
It was the Haybalers’ first title in 30 years, and for their efforts, they were moved up to the MBL’s upper Gabilan Division this season. Unfortunately for San Benito, it will probably get demoted back to the Pacific for the 2015-16 season.
The Balers, who entered Thursday’s season-finale against Salinas at 3-10-3 overall and 0-9-1 in league play, have taken a beating in the Gabilan, having been outscored 29-5 in the process.
San Benito lost three or four starters due to ineligibility and injuries, and it was simply asking too much for a team to overcome those issues when it was already facing an uphill battle from the start.
“This is a really challenging league,” Balers coach Tony Deras said. “Last year was nothing compared to the tough competition we’re playing this year. We lost players to injuries and grades, and that affected the whole team. We lost 4-0 to Alvarez (on Jan. 20), and after that, we lost it. I don’t know what happened. Maybe that loss killed the whole team’s spirit, and from there we went downhill.”
Poor man-marking and a lack of communication plagued the team in the Balers’ 6-1 loss to Alvarez on Feb. 12, but out of the gloom came a positive: the play of junior goalkeeper Mickel Rojas, who made several saves, including two-point blank ones that would count as highlight-reel material.
“Mickel is a returning player next year, so that’ll be a good thing,” Deras said.
Rojas was inserted into the starting lineup in the team’s match against Alisal on Feb. 5, with then-starter Cesar Perez del Real switching to a field position.
The 5-foot-10 Rojas possesses strong instincts and a strong leg, often sending kicks past midfield. Rojas credits del Real and Deras for helping him develop into starting goalie material.
“Seeing how Cesar moves and how he plays, that’s what I want to do,” Rojas said. “He’s technically my coach, and he gives me good advice. And Tony has taught me how to pass, kick and control the ball. I want to be the guy that controls the backline.”
Rojas didn’t start playing soccer until age 8, shortly after his mom made him quit football. A burly kid, Rojas said he’s had “around 20 concussions” in the four years of playing football.
“I liked to go in rough and hit the players time and time again,” he said.
In the minutes after the team’s 6-1 loss to Alvarez last week, Rojas lay on the ground, head down, arms cupping his knees. Even though he had virtually no chance on all six of the Eagles’ goals, Rojas felt like he should’ve stopped some of them.
It’s that type of attitude that will serve San Benito well entering next season, when it looks to forget this year’s struggles.
“I’m going to try to play for a club team when the high school season is over, work hard and make sure we don’t have another losing season like this,” Rojas said.

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