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September 24, 2023

Balers lose a mudder

It may have been the muddiest football homecoming in recent
memory. It would’ve been one of the most memorable games of all
time if Hollister High had pulled off the upset over Salinas at
Andy Hardin Field Friday night.
It may have been the muddiest football homecoming in recent memory. It would’ve been one of the most memorable games of all time if Hollister High had pulled off the upset over Salinas at Andy Hardin Field Friday night.

It didn’t happen. The Cowboys’ stout defense put a cork in the Balers’ grounded wing-t, blanking Hollister 17-0.

If any number can be thrown out to a captive audience, it would be 46. That would be the number of total yards the Baler offense achieved against one of – if not the best – defenses in the Central Coast Section.

“They have great personnel,” said Baler quarterback Lee Osborne, who didn’t appear to enjoy his night in the mud, slipping nearly every time he attempted to run. “Their outside linebackers are quick. They dominated. They contained real well.”

The Cowboys (8-1, 4-0 TCAL) dominated Hollister’s defensive front on the opening drive of the night. They first led with their stout fullback Cody Baker, who hammered the line three straight times for 15 yards. When the Balers were properly sucked in, scatback Jordan Ventura, who must be a pretty good mudder, raced around left end for a 31-yard gain to the Hollister 18. Baker churned out 10 more yards on two plays. With second-and-goal at the eight, Ventura swept left the final eight yards. It was eight plays in three and a half minutes.

Baler head coach Chris Cameron was impressed.

“They came out and took it to us,” said Cameron, whose team is now 4-4-1 overall and 2-2 in the Tri-County Athletic League. “We tried to convince our kids to get after it from the get-go, but they didn’t respond. We blew some assignments on offense and had some mental breakdowns. Salinas outplayed us. Their linebackers hit the hole soundly.”

The Balers have one last gasp in making the CCS playoffs. And that’s to beat Palma this Friday night at the Salinas Sports Complex and to have Valley Christian defeat Serra and secure the West Catholic Athletic League title outright. That would give Hollister three more points because it had Valley Christian, a league champion, on the schedule.

“We have a slim chance,” said Cameron. “We’re preparing our kids to play the biggest game of their lives. We’re treating this Friday’s game like a CCS playoff game. We have to give our kids the best chance to win.”

“Our season is to beat Palma,” said Osborne, who might be playing his last game as a Baler. “We have a lot of guys who have never lost to Palma. It’s going to make or break us for CCS.”

The farthest Hollister penetrated into Cowboys territory was the 26-yard line. That was early in the second period and came as a result of Willie Sanchez recovering a muffed Cowboys punt at the Salinas 28. The Balers didn’t get their first first down of the night until 56 seconds were left in the first half. Osborne wobbled a pass against the strong easterly wind, which Chris Uribe did a good job of hanging onto in traffic for a 15-yard gain. It was the only completion of the night for Osborne, who was 1-for-4.

The Balers had the wind at their backs to start the fourth period and had a third-and-nine play at their own 21. Osborne ran it for no gain. Hollister, down the 17 points at the time, took over at the 50-yard line after a blocked punt on their next possession. Halfback Armando Larez lost two yards on first down, then sophomore fullback Chris Brigantino rushed two straight times for four yards and the Balers had to punt.

“We just were trying to ram it at them,” said Osborne as to why he didn’t go the air. “We thought that was the best way to beat them.”

The next time the Balers got the ball was at the Cowboys’ 35 following a Cowboys punt into the wind which went for zero yards. Osborne went back to pass on first down and was sacked, coughing up the ball with the Cowboys’ Jonathan White recovering with 3:34 left in the game. It was one of at least 10 times the ball in the swampy turf on the night. The weather, in fact, helped the Balers’ cause.

“The weather hurt Salinas,” said Cameron. “They turned the ball over twice as many times as we turned it over to them. We just didn’t capitalize. We didn’t convert their turnovers into points.”

JV result: The Baler JV’s (4-4-1) played their best game of the year, shutting out previously undefeated Salinas 12-0.

It was a big night for Francisco Avilas, who had touchdown runs of 70 and 58 yards. Chase Graves had a nice interception to halt a Cowboy drive.

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

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