In any one game, Eugene McBride could play any one of three positions—nose guard, tackle or end—on the defensive line. The responsibilities are different for every position, but what it takes to play them remain the same: determination, intensity and hard work.
McBride, a San Benito High senior, possesses those attributes in abundance. He has to. Haybalers coach Bryan Smith said McBride plays twice his size—at 5-foot-11 and 215 pounds, McBride routinely goes up against bigger offensive linemen—and has the “heart of a champion.”
It’s no wonder the Balers (6-4) have had another solid season, earning the No. 4 seed entering Friday’s Central Coast Section Open Division I home playoff game against No. 5 Menlo-Atherton (6-4).
“We’re fortunate to have another home game because we weren’t expecting that,” McBride said. “We know that we’re a little outsized, but that won’t stop us. We have to be more physical, outplay them and not be lazy.”
McBride will never be mistaken for being lazy on the field, as he literally takes on a different persona on game day.
“I’m probably one of the more emotional players on the team,” he said. “I play my best when I’m angry and all psyched up.”
McBride channels his emotions to try to outwork his opponents. He did just that on his favorite play of the season in the second quarter against Aptos on Oct.20. San Benito lost 35-12; however, McBride prevented a score when he stuffed an Aptos running play on a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line.
McBride simply beat his man to a spot, got penetration and wrapped up the Aptos ballcarrier short of the goal line in making a nice defensive stop. Since McBride hates it when the opposing team scores, perhaps it was no surprise that he came through in what at the time was a crucial moment in the game. McBride has been ultra productive this season, accumulating a career-high 14 tackles against Wilcox and a strip sack, pass breakup and five tackles in a 36-29 win over Monte Vista Christian.
Even though the San Benito High defense hasn’t been as strong as it was last season, McBride has been a stalwart, playing a key role for a unit that has suffered some key injuries in the last month. Against Menlo-Atherton, McBride will probably face a linemen 20 to 50 pounds heavier.
The Bears are traditionally big on the lines, and not just big but talented. However, as most of the Haybalers’ opponents have found out over the years, size isn’t everything.
“The key versus heavier guys is to be lower on the pad level and strike first,” McBride said. “Just play fast.”
There have been games this season in which the Balers have been blitzed (see Aptos, Wilcox and Salinas as examples). McBride takes those losses personally; however, the sting of those defeats are forgotten when his 5-year-old sister, Adyline, runs to him once the game is over.
“She goes crazy at the games and is a big fan,” he said. “It’s kind of cool after every game—she’ll be screaming my name and running up for a hug. That’s always a great moment.”