San Benito’s Kyle Vallejo hits Sebastian Cathirell for a 34-yard
game-winning touchdown in the closing minutes Friday as the ‘Balers
edge Lincoln 13-12

As it turns out, it was the same offensive play that started it all.

Trailing by five with one minute, 19 seconds left on the clock, San Benito quarterback Kyle Vallejo took three steps to his left out of the shotgun formation and found a wide-open Sebastian Cathirell in the corner for a 34-yard game-winning touchdown Friday night, launching the host Haybalers into the win column with a 13-12 victory over the Lincoln Lions.

The catch in the waning minutes culminated an impressive six-play, 88-yard drive that ate up just 35 seconds of clock, and left a rewarding taste for a San Benito offense that struggled to move the ball for much of the night.

“It was extremely gratifying,” said offensive coordinator Bryan Smith, who was celebrating a birthday Friday. “The struggle of the full other 46 minutes, then to go down and execute the two-minute offense the way we did …

“We ran it the first play of the drive – 90 corner combination. The hitch is on the outside and the corners on the inside and he hit the hitch on the very first play of the drive.

“About four or five plays later, Coach (Jason) Kearns said we have a corner over the top, so I went back to it on the next play and sure enough. Kyle had time to throw, and he made a great throw and (Cathirell) made a great catch.”

San Benito had zero timeouts on the game-winning drive, but managed to not only make up big yardage on each play, but get out of bounds to stop the clock as well.

Smith highlighted the play of receiver Andre Cornell, who had two catches for 41 yards on the final drive and managed to stop the clock after each catch.

“Guys stepped up when they needed to,” Smith said.

Lincoln (0-1) had a chance to spoil the thrilling evening when they began their final drive from their own 28-yard line with 1:05 remaining. But ‘Baler lineman Robby Sanchez, who seemed to step up for the defense all night, sacked Lions quarterback Nick De Martini on the first play, then recovered a fumble two plays later to seal the victory.

“Defensively, we played a real good game and we hung in there,” head coach Chris Cameron said. “At the end there, we were on the field a whole bunch. We bent a little bit, but we never really snapped.”

The ‘Baler defense brought their usual bend-but-don’t-break attitude to Friday’s home opener, allowing just 160 yards of total offense, but more importantly, stopping a Lions attack in the fourth quarter that appeared to be marching toward a win.

After being held to just 42 yards of offense in the first half, Lincoln connected on a couple passes early in the third quarter and opened up a ground game that was certainly hard to come by early on, as the ‘Balers kept the Lions to just five rushing yards on 15 carries in the first half.

Prior to San Benito’s game-winning effort, though, Lincoln orchestrated a 15-play drive that took nearly seven minutes off the clock by the time the ‘Balers got the ball back at their own 12-yard line.

“Right off the bat, we brought it to them. We stopped the run right off the bat,” Sanchez said. “Then they started resorting to the pass a little bit and we got that better. We just kept shutting down one thing after the other and it led to a pretty good game.

“We all got fired up and made it happen.”

The defense certainly kept Lincoln out of the game early on, but San Benito had a chance to grab an early lead during their first possession of the game when Anthony Padilla (5 rushes, 51 yards) turned the corner on the right side and sprinted 40 yards up field to Lincoln’s 11-yard line. But the ‘Balers couldn’t punch it in from short distance and a 25-yard field goal attempt failed, leaving San Benito with nothing to show for their effort.

“Offensively, we didn’t play well,” Cameron said. “We didn’t play well until the very end.”

On their ensuing possession, San Benito was blessed with good field position after defensive back Alexander Alvarez picked off a Lincoln pass. The ‘Balers later scored on the drive when Vallejo sneaked in from one yard out to give San Benito a 7-0 advantage.

The second half started on a sour note, however, when Lion Miguel Ramirez picked off a Vallejo pass and returned it 19 yards to pay dirt.

On their very next possession, Lincoln went 48 yards in three minutes, and fullback Alex Ortega pounded in a one-yard score to give the Lions a 12-7 lead with 4:08 remaining in the third.

Lincoln head coach Kevin Collins said the only halftime adjustment made was that his team played harder.

“We can take a lot of positives out of this, because they were shutting us down in the first half and we were able to move the ball a little bit better in the second half,” he said. “It came down to our kids playing harder, a little more confident. They were a little star-struck. Defensively, [San Benito is] a good team. Their D-line is good and their linebackers are really good.”

Lincoln looked strong for much of the second half, especially after they grabbed the 12-7 lead, as the ‘Baler offense went three-and-out on their next three possessions.

San Benito’s fourth possession, though, turned team moral around in under two minutes.

“I’m happy for the kids more than anything,” Smith said. “There were times I would imagine they felt the game was no longer theirs to win. Obviously, we need to improve in the running game and be able to consistently run the ball so that we can drive down the field.”

San Benito finished with 73 yards rushing on 25 carries.

Vallejo was 13 of 21 for 185 yards, with Cornell catching four balls for 91 yards and Evan McFadden hauling in four as well for 25 yards. Cathirell finished with five catches for 69 yards.

“This is a good football team and this is a tough place to play,” Collins said. “We had them where we wanted them and we just made too many mistakes down the stretch.”

San Benito (1-1) will host Wilcox next Friday at Andy Hardin Stadium. Kick-off is at 7:30 p.m.

LN 0 0 12 0 – 12

SB 7 0 0 6 – 13


San Benito – 258 yards (185 pass, 73 run)

Lincoln – 160 yards (69 pass, 91 run)


Kyle Vallejo, SB – 13 of 21, 185 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Nick De Martini, LN – 8 of 15, 69 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT


Kyle Vallejo, SB – 6 rushes, 3 yards, 1 TD

Nick Acosta, SB – 12 rushes, 19 yards

Anthony Padilla, SB – 5 rushes, 51 yards

Sebastian Cathirell, SB – 2 rushes, 0 yards


Sebastian Cathirell, SB – 5 catches, 69 yards, 1 TD

Evan McFadden, SB – 4 catches, 25 yards

Andre Cornell, SB – 4 catches, 91 yards

JV Note:

The San Benito junior varsity team battled to an 8-8 tie with visiting Lincoln on Friday night at Andy Hardin Stadium, where both teams brought stout defenses that prevented any scoring in the second half.

“Defense was huge,” head coach Luis Espinoza said. “They picked it up all the way through. After [Lincoln] scored, they shut them down.”

San Benito got on the scoreboard in the second period when quarterback Greg Vasquez found Adrian Enriquez for a 30-yard touchdown pass, and back Adam Huaracha converted the two-point to put the ‘Balers up 8-0.

But Lincoln tied the game up at 8-all late in the first half on a 40-yard run, and that’s how it remained for the rest of the game.

“They had a good defense and they were able to stop us on certain things,” Espinoza said. “We should have won the game, but it’s one of those things … you play football for all four quarters.”

San Benito (1-0-1) will host Wilcox next Friday at 5 p.m.

Frosh Note:

The San Benito freshman team kept their scoreless streak in tact on Thursday night when they defeated Lincoln 22-0 at Andy Hardin Stadium.

“Our defense is keeping us in the game,” coach Matt Andrade said.

“Our defense is playing some good football right now,” added head coach Herb Bocksnick. “And offensively, we just need to learn how to finish … We left a lot of points on the field.”

Nevertheless, the ‘Balers still managed to post a 22-spot before it was over.

Back Anthony Cervantes found pay dirt from five yards out for San Benito’s first score, and also pounded in the two-point conversion to make it 8-0 ‘Balers.

Later, quarterback Ricky Munguia connected on a 25-yard touchdown pass to Lucas Haro, while the ‘Balers padded their lead when Cervantes converted the two-point to make it 16-0.

Haro, though, wasn’t done just yet and returned a punt 30 yards to the end zone to put San Benito well ahead for the win.

The ‘Balers (2-0) were scheduled to host Wilcox next Thursday, but will instead play at Lincoln on Friday. Kick-off is at 3 p.m.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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