It may have been Homecoming Game night at San Benito High, but it certainly wasn’t home sweet home. The Haybalers (5-3, 3-2) dropped their second straight Monterey Bay League Gabilan Division game to Aptos High 35-12 last Friday night—and with that all but dashed their hopes of winning a league championship.
In a hard-hitting, much anticipated contest between MBL Gabilan heavyweights, all around Mariners (5-2, 4-0) weapon Blake Wheeler struck three times for long touchdowns, including a body shot on the second-half kickoff when he broke loose for a 90-yard touchdown return giving the Mariners a 21-12 lead.
Heading into the halftime homecoming ceremony and fireworks shows, the booms were reserved solely on the field, rather than in the sky as the hits kept coming, even as the Mariners continued to light up the scoreboard.
“It’s not the way we would have liked it to end, but I’m proud of our guys,” Balers coach Bryan Smith said. “That’s a good team. Offensively, they’re a machine and they line up very quickly.”
Following a 50-yard run by Jonny Gonzalez, fellow running back Joe DeMaggio put the Balers up early with a 6-0 lead following a failed 2-point conversion.
Aptos responded with a touchdown before Gonzalez busted through for a 74-yard rushing touchdown. Another failed San Benito 2-point conversion cut the Balers’ deficit to 14-12, but that’s as close as they would get.
“I’m very proud of how the defense played,” Smith said. “We didn’t do much on offense to help them out. We have to produce more points.”
The Mariners operated like an offensive machine, continually attacking at all points on the field. They passed sparingly, yet efficiently, as junior Hunter Matys and Wheeler connected with for touchdowns of 40 and 36 yards.
“We’re going to be working on our consistency and fire,” Smith said. “We had a really good week of practice and we’ll need to have another. We just need to find a way to keep these guys motivated.”
After a turnover on downs late in the game for the Haybalers, the hits kept coming and Aptos offensive players paid the price for each gain when they weren’t dishing it out themselves.
“I knew we were in for a tough battle because they lost last week and were not happy about that,” Aptos coach Randy Blankenship said. “They have a rich tradition here and I had a hard time convincing our kids we were in for a fight. After halftime, they realized that.”
Even with the disappointing loss, Smith was particularly impressed with the play of several key Balers.
“Albert Rodriguez at middle linebacker had a great game and Aidan Pung played really well at offensive line,” Smith said. “He was able to get to the next level to take out a few guys.”
The Balers will look to take out their frustrations on the 1-7 North Salinas High Vikings next week at home as they try to make up ground in the division.
“I’m sure they’ll be hungry,” Smith said. “They haven’t had the best of years.
Editor’s note: Bryce Stoepfel wrote this report.