Andy Hardin Stadium on the Hollister High campus was bustling with action for a special edition of Monday Night Football.
No, not the one on ESPN.
Instead, it was a dose of pre-game music, Haybaler announcer Mike Sanchez, a lively crowd of 200 fans, kids lining up for Mmm Churros and the stadium lights coming on as the sun set.
And no, it wasn’t to watch the Baler boys’ team play tackle football.
This football game starred the Hollister girls’ squad competing in the inaugural season of girls flag football in California.
The home crowd was excited to watch the Balers in action for their first home game of the season and they didn’t disappoint following a 31-12 victory over Monterey High on Oct. 16.
“It’s Monday Night Lights,” Hollister quarterback/defensive back Golda Demby said. “It was a lot of fun. I’m just so happy that Hollister is such a supportive community and they show up for us.”
It truly was a merging of the iconic Texas football book and show “Friday Night Lights” with the NFL institution “Monday Night Football.” The night showcased all the fun and excitement and the special aura of football, community and high school sports.
“It was awesome,” Hollister receiver/quarterback Grace Peffley said. “Our first home game and I love the environment. The energy was up. We had a home-field advantage. The huge crowd really made it.”
On the field, the Balers pulled away from a 13-12 lead midway through the second 20-minute half with three touchdowns to salt away the contest.
Demby completed 9-of-19 pass attempts for 111 yards and two touchdowns. Peffley finished with two receptions for 24 yards with quarterback play of 60 passing yards and 89 rushing yards on three carries. Two of the carries were long scoring runs of 31 and 50 yards.
Jayden Osborne reeled in six receptions for 78 yards and one TD, while fellow teammate Luzianna Espinoza had two receptions for 25 yards—including a 15-yard touchdown catch for Hollister.
Monterey was led by Eastin Jennings who completed 14-for-34 pass attempts for 225 yards and two touchdowns. Denae Lee finished with four receptions for 92 yards, and Emery Jennings hauled in three long balls for a total of 82 yards and one touchdown.
“It was great,” Hollister coach Tod Thatcher said. “The more they play, the better they get. We have kids with athletic experience and they bring a lot. The game is designed for offense but our defense was great. They covered everyone and knocked passes down. Leandra Morales played really well. She shut down their underneath passing game. They all tackled well.”
Hollister sophomores Gisselle Ruiz Boytes and Hillary Santamaria each recorded an interception. Also holding back the Toreadors’ attack was Demby, Bryssa Martinez Amador, Aleyda Martinez Acosta and Jazleen Florez. The Balers’ defensive unit twice forced Monterey to turn the ball over on downs.
The offense scored five touchdowns and caught fire in the second half with three consecutive scoring drives.
In addition to Demby, Peffley and Osborne, the attack featured Natalie Tonascia, Olivia Schaal, Sabrina Fortino and Bianca Guerra.
The contest was technically a double-header, with a game between the two schools earlier in the afternoon. Per agreement of the coaches, the first match was mostly a “B” team game and the later contest was for the “A” teams.
That wise approach enabled more girls to get playing time and action in this new sport. Both results count on a team’s record. The first game was a 12-12 tie, which included an overtime period.
The evening was topped off with the best possible treat: Monday Night Churros, courtesy of the folks at Mmm Churros. The last batches were provided to the players from both teams. Everyone was a winner on this historic night.
“It’s a great way to start flag football on campus,” Thatcher said. “The parents’ support has been fantastic. We’ve got the voice of the Balers, Mike Sanchez; he’s the great-uncle of Jayden (Osborne). Churros, music, fans.”
Hollister (5-2-1) will play at Aptos with a similar doubleheader on Friday. The games are slated for 6pm and 7pm.
The Balers return to Andy Hardin Stadium for their regular season finale Nov. 4, which includes opponents Salinas High at 9am and Carmel High at 11am.