Through the first four games of the season, San Benito High’s defense has stood tall. The Haybalers pitched their second shutout with a 38-0 win over visiting Alisal on Friday night.
“The defense is playing stellar,” Balers coach Bryan Smith said. “They’ve allowed three points over the course of the last two games. Now the opponents, it’s not Salinas, it’s not Palma, it’s not Aptos. But we’re playing some good defense, guys are flying around the field, they’re in the right position to make plays, so it’s fun to watch.”
Especially Maliki Harrison, who on at least two occasions had such a beat on Alisal’s snap count that he was literally in the backfield as the ball was being snapped.
“Coach (Tod) Thatcher had their defensive call and their split was a 3-foot split, and we could see Maliki every time he was going to knife right through the gap and he did,” Smith said. “He did a really good job and is someone who has really come around since spring and now he might be one of our better defensive players.”
Smith also noted the team’s edge players, Derek Sandoval and Mateo Reyes, the former for his textbook tackling and the latter for coming up with an interception on Alisal’s opening possession of the third quarter.
“Mateo played the flat curl concept really well and was rewarded for it,” Smith said.
Billy Aviles, Julien Garcia and Chance Brown along with others got the push on the defensive line and were stout up front. Aviles recovered a fumble that San Benito turned into seven points midway through the second. The Balers totaled 307 yards of offense while limiting the Trojans to 112. Cornerback/safety Jayden Freidt was a standout defensively but showed his dynamic skills on the offensive side of the ball when he turned a simple swing pass for a 73-yard touchdown.
With San Benito (4-0, 2-0) leading 7-0 early in the second quarter, Tyler Pacheco hit Freidt on the right side. Freidt juked one defender and was gone, blowing by the Alisal defense to the end zone. The sequence highlighted the Balers’ big-play capability.
“We run that play in practice and I run it every few so often,” Freidt said. “I finally got the chance to run it in a game and was grateful for the opportunity. I don’t practice with the offense, but I’m ready when they need me to go.”
The Balers turned four of the Trojans’ five turnovers into 28 points in a contest that was never close, resulting in a running clock in the fourth quarter. Ethan Salcedo made a nice play on special teams, recovering a kickoff after Anthony Mendoza delivered a beautiful kick that had backspin on it and allowed Salcedo to beat the Alisal players to the ball.
It’s been a while since San Benito has been getting this much production out of their kickers as they have this season. Manuel Velazco was solid yet again, converting a 33-yard field goal for the final points of the game. Even though the offense hit some big plays—Pacheco and Isaiha Molina connected for an electrifying 69-yard TD—Smith said the team needs to be better, especially against the likes of Salinas, Palma and Aptos.
“We have a lot to clean up,” he said. “We try to reiterate that to our guys before the game, during the game, at halftime and at the end of the game. We have a really good team, but we can be so much better if we can just clean things up, become more consistent and execute better. I mean, I guess it’s what every team would want to do, but we have the ability to do that so we have to find a way to clean it up.”