Hollister High senior Austin Hutchison and the Haybalers football team will try to regroup following a 34-3 loss to Valley Christian in non-league play Sept. 8. (Chris Mora/Hollister Free Lance)

Things aren’t always what they seem. Sometimes negatives can turn into positives.

But a 34-3 non-league loss to West Catholic Athletic League power Valley Christian on Sept. 8 appeared to be a painful defeat. 

The Haybalers can take confidence from hanging with the Warriors for half the game and from learning a few lessons on what to work on to succeed against tough league opponents they will soon face.

“We started off good tonight, but then we made a couple mistakes,” said Hollister free safety Daymen Valencia. “We have a bye week coming and I think we will step it up.”

Hollister (1-2) had its game this week against Santa Cruz canceled by the Cardinals due to insufficient players available to suit up.

After suffering back-to-back losses, a bye week will come in handy for the Balers as it offers a chance to reset and work on several things before Pacific Coast Athletic League Gabilan Division play begins next week.

In last Friday night’s contest, Hollister struck first when Joey Fernandez banked a 51-yard field goal that sailed through the uprights, with another 10 yards to spare, that gave them an early 3-0 lead.

Hollister’s defense held the Warriors to just one first down on their first two drives. On VC’s third possession, junior tailback Marcel Leggett fumbled and Baler linebacker Calum Dollan recovered the loose ball.

The clock moved through the midpoint of the second quarter with the scoreboard showing Hollister on top 3-0.

But the situation instantly changed as Valley Christian powered through run-only scoring drives of 68 yards and 32 yards that gave them a 13-3 lead going into halftime.

“Our defense played extremely well in the first half,” said Hollister coach Bryan Smith. “They played together as a unit. They bent some but they did not break. I think our front line of James Law, Zahir Gomez and Christian Lujano were great.”

The trio of Balers were aided by fine play from other teammates including Callum Dolan, Carmelo Arias and Andre Gettone. 

On offense, Abel Galindo had early success through the air but later in the contest both the aerial attack and the ground game struggled. A mid-game stretch of seven possessions included four “three-and-out’s” and three turnovers.

“We need consistency on offense,” Smith said. “We need to drive and score touchdowns. They (Valley Christian) are big and they’re physical. Our defense went toe-to-toe with them but we were on the field more than we liked.”

Harold Lusk led the Hollister ground attack with 36 yards on nine carries. Austin Hutchison and Myles Status also contributed. 

Galindo connected with Savion Loza on two passes for a total of 20 yards and tight end Theodore Meredith on a 17-yarder. Linemen Chinemi Mgbechi-Ezeri, Arden Bracamonte, Tomas Salvador and others kept the Warriors off of Galindo.

“Abel and the offense played well at times,” Smith said. “But we’ve got to be more consistent. We’re playing very good teams in the preseason. These will help us prepare to be the best we can be in league.”

Yes, a few lessons and team improvement from games like this can help the Haybalers in upcoming battles against squads such as Salinas (0-3), Palma (2-1) and Aptos (0-3) high schools.

After the bye week, the Haybalers face Alvarez High in the teams’ league opener at Andy Hardin Stadium in Hollister on Sept. 22, followed by a meeting against rival Palma in league action on Sept. 29. Both games are slated to kick off at 7:30pm.

“The team can grow together during the bye week,” Valencia said. “I think we can finish the season strongly.”

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