Football: Balers roll again

Led by Hunter Raquet, the Balers rolled to their second win in as many games.

Resiliency continues to be the theme for the San Benito High football team. In their season opener against Sacred Heart Prep, the Haybalers overcame three turnovers en route to an 18-point win. In a 42-14 victory over Palo Alto on Friday, host San Benito possessed the ball for only 1 minute, 42 seconds in the first quarter, a result of a muffed punt and Palo Alto turning that into a long touchdown drive.

It didn’t matter. The Balers roared back decisively, producing their second impressive performance in as many games.

“The kids did not waver one bit,” Balers coach Bryan Smith said. “They didn’t bat an eye. They kept their focus when a lot of things could have gone wrong there.”

After holding Palo Alto (1-1) to a three-and-out on the opening series of the game, San Benito muffed the ensuing punt. The Vikings recovered and promptly went on a Balers-type drive, covering 59 yards on 13 plays that took a whopping nine minutes off the clock.

By the time San Benito started its first offensive series, there was only 1:42 left in the first quarter. However, the Balers scored 42 unanswered points to win going away. After punting on their second possession—Diego Fisher’s first of the season—the Balers scored on five of their final six possessions to put things out of reach by the start of the fourth quarter, as a running clock was implemented for the final 12 minutes of play.

Hunter Nye had touchdown runs of 1, 27 and 52 yards—the latter two coming off a pitch toward the left side—Eric Fernandez returned an interception 23 yards for a TD and Adam Mendoza returned a kickoff 86 yards for a TD. That meant San Benito scored offensively, defensively and on special teams.

Nye finished with 123 yards on 10 carries, and Hunter Raquet completed 7 of 10 passes for 104 yards, including a 16-yard TD pass to Zack Alnas. For the second straight contest, Raquet played a turnover-free game. More importantly, the 6-foot-3, 180-pound senior quarterback engineered something rarely seen from the offense in the last four years—look downright machine-like during a 2-minute drive.

With 2:36 left in the first half and the game tied at 7-7, San Benito had the ball on its 17-yard line. Raquet led the team on an 11-play, 83-yard drive, capped by Nye’s TD run from a yard out. Instead of a tie game entering halftime, the Balers took the lead and controlled things the rest of the way.

Raquet showed remarkable poise on the drive, as the offense had to overcome two false-start penalties. He completed three throws on a dime, going for 12, 22 and 23 yards. It was clinical, and Smith could only smile when asked about the series.

“Hunter did a good job there in staying poised,” Smith said. “He marches us all the way down the field, and that was a big score at that point in the game.”

Nye took advantage of the Vikings’ weak perimeter run defense on the long TD runs, as the senior accelerated around the left corner to the sideline en route to the end zone. Mendoza made a tremendous cut on his kickoff return for a TD, and Fernandez produced the defense’s second TD in as many games. Senior cornerback Isaac Regalado had his second interception of the season, helping lead a defense that limited Palo Alto to only 193 yards of total offense.

Once again, the San Benito offensive and defensive lines controlled the action up front.

“My line did a helluva a job blocking for me and the running backs,” Raquet said. “That was the game right there.”

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