Before the season started, San Benito High football coach Bryan Smith said Adam Mendoza’s name will be called early and often. It only took the first game of the 2017 campaign to see why. The versatile senior did it all last Friday in the Haybalers’ 28-21 home win over Sacred Heart Prep-Atherton.
Mendoza returned a fumble 15 yards for a touchdown, returned a kickoff 71 yards and for good measure, swatted away the Gators’ last-ditch effort pass for the potential game-tying score with 2 minutes left in the game.
“Adam Mendoza’s name is going to keep coming up,” Smith said. “He’s very talented. You look at the difference in the game with Adam scooping and scoring, well, there’s the seven points.”
That particular play transpired midway through the first quarter, on SHP’s second possession in a scoreless game. Gators quarterback Brad Yaffe’s lateral attempt to the right side never reached one of his receivers, and Mendoza alertly picked up the ball around the 10-yard line before racing his way into the end zone uncontested.
“I had zone in the deep third, but I ran up because it was a screen,” Mendoza said. “It was my job to tackle the player if they caught the ball. I saw them drop it, and I just picked it up.”
Mendoza’s highlight-reel tape included an electrifying 71-yard return on the second half kickoff. Catching the ball near the left sideline at his own 14-yard line, Mendoza made his way up the field diagonally, eventually getting tackled at the SHP 15.
The Balers ran it three straight times—Jonny Gonzalez went for 8 yards and Matt Ramon 6—before fullback Eric Green plowed his way over center for a 1-yard touchdown to give San Benito a 21-7 lead with 10:32 left in the third quarter.
On a previous kickoff return, Mendoza wanted to make his way to the right side but ended up staying on the left. This time, Mendoza made sure to trust his instincts.
“The field was pretty open,” he said. “I made a couple of cuts and had some great blocks. The kickoff return was my highlight because it helps the team get better field position to score.”
Green had a pair of TD runs, including an 11-yarder that accounted for the game-winning score with 9 minutes, 8 seconds left. Gonzalez had a 5-yard TD run, and led the team with 65 yards rushing on 12 carries. Quarterback Slade Wilson looked solid in his first varsity start, completing 5 of 10 passes for 52 yards.
“I thought Slade Wilson played really well,” Smith said. “It was fun to watch and exciting.”
Smith praised the play of the offensive line, especially when it lost right tackle Aidan Pung to injury early in the third quarter. However, left guard Daniel Pasillas and center Blaze McShane did an excellent job of picking up the SHP blitzes. Nate Sanchez and Jesus Toscano played a pivotal role at right guard, and Adrian Martinez also had a strong showing.
“I think he did a lot of right things,” Smith said. “I was kind of concerned as (offensive line) coach (Chris) Cameron and I were talking about, and thinking if he was going to be able to do it. But when I watch the film, I think I’m going to see Adrian showing up really well.”
This was one of the few times in recent memory when the Balers had nearly 100 yards less of total offense than their opponent. The Gators outgained the Balers 324-228; however, San Benito produced the most impactful plays throughout the contest.
The Balers have a bye week before playing at Los Gatos on Sept. 8.