Youth Football: Rebels go the distance

Rebels tailback Primo Reyes runs the ball during the Monterey Bay Youth Football League Super Bowl.

In just its fifth year as a program, the Tri-County Rebels Peewee football team reached the pinnacle of its sport—winning the Monterey Bay Youth Football League(MBYFL) Super Bowl. The Rebels did so by defeating the Salinas Colts 14-8 in overtime on Nov. 21 at Rabobank Stadium.
“It was a big deal beating a program that is coming up on its 50th year of existence,” Rebels coach Jim McShane said, referring to the Salinas squad. “It puts you on the map.”
The MBYFL Super Bowl matched up a program of tradition against the new kids on the block—and the new kids prevailed. They did it with a stout defense that yielded just 6.6 points per game and an offense that came up clutch in the most pivotal moments.
In the Super Bowl, Tri-County scored on a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line in overtime after it stopped Salinas on the opening possession of the extra session (teams get the ball at each other’s 10-yard line with four downs to score). McShane’s son, Michael, scored on a quarterback sneak to catapult the Rebels into youth football nirvana.
“Michael got a huge push from the o-line,” McShane said, referring to the offensive line of Mateo Reyes, Enrique Martinez, Donny Gutirrez, Khader Yasin, Karim Yasin and Christian Gomez.
The Rebels also received a huge play from Primo Reyes, who returned a kickoff 70 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 8-8 late in the third quarter.
“That was the turning point of the game,” McShane said.
Speaking of an impact special-teams player, kicker Jorge Rivera proved to be instrumental in the last couple weeks of the season. At the Peewee level, teams earn two points for a successful kick after a touchdown and just one for a conversion via the run or pass. That’s because kicking is harder at the lower levels, so teams with a good kicker have a nice advantage.
Tri-County’s defense had a number of standouts, including Jorge Rodriguez, Alex Valencia, Isaiah Anaya, Isaiah Rabago and Gutirrez.
“Defense was our strong point,” McShane said. “They were the type of kids who would knock you down and pick you right back up so they could knock you down again.”
The Rebels featured a bruising rushing attack that wore down opponents as the game went on. They had several talented running backs, including Valencia, Primo Reyes and Isaac Rodriguez, who earned some tough yards in the OT period.
“We were a gritty, blue-collar type team,” McShane said. “We were old school—you know, typical Hollister football. A good defense and ground and pound on offense. Our coaching staff is filled with ex Haybalers.”
They include Matt Lewis, Ali Yasin, Mike Rabago, Alex Valencia, Damien Gonzales and Lionel Espinoza.
“All of our coaches were dedicated, and they have a tremendous passion for the sport,” McShane said.
Tri-County was just 20 seconds away from finishing the season with a perfect record. Its only loss came in the season opener against last year’s Super Bowl winner, the Toro Bulls of Salinas. The loss actually served the team well.
“It was a great thing to start the season off with a loss,” McShane said. “It humbles you a bit, and the kids really went after it after that first game.”
Tri-County, which plays its home games at Anzar High and practices at Calaveras Elementary School, has players from Hollister, San Juan Bautista and Aromas. The Peewee team features kids ages 9 to 12 years old who can weigh a maximum of 135 pounds.
The Super Bowl was the culmination of a long season for the Rebels, who started practicing in the last week of July. Along with the Hollister Vikings, the Rebels have become a model youth football program. McShane said he was most proud of the players displaying a respect for the game.
“I would say hands down our team showed the most sportsmanship in the entire league,” he said. “We had tons of comments from other organizations complimenting our kids on the sportsmanship they played with. As a coach and parent, those things are as fun as the victories on the field. I’ve never been around a team that has defined the word team better than this one.”

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