Balers on bye; aim to come back strong

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The Balers' Alejandro Cosio-Arrellano rushed for a team-high 98 yards on 15 carries in a loss to Los Gatos last week. Photo by Robert Eliason.

Michael McShane experienced the proverbial baptism by fire as a sophomore last year. With then-starter Slade Wilson battling injuries, McShane saw plenty of action in his inaugural year on the varsity team. He comported himself well, and the Hollister football team was hoping it would prove to be a harbinger for the 2019 season.

So far, so good. Despite a 35-8 drubbing at the hands of Los Gatos last Friday—snapping a four-game winning streak against the Wildcats—there were a couple of bright spots, with McShane being one of them. The junior quarterback—while not putting up gaudy stats—nevertheless looked solid in running the offense and has shown he can hurt defenses with his arm when the offense is in sync. McShane’s 10-yard touchdown pass to Collin Peyton accounted for the team’s lone score with 9 minutes, 56 seconds left in the third quarter. That cut the Balers’ deficit to 21-8, but that’s as close as they would get. For the second week in a row, Hollister saw its opponent close the game in dominant fashion. In a Week 2 loss to Wilcox, the Chargers scored the final 27 points to win going away.

Against Los Gatos, the Balers surrendered the final 14 points of the contest en route to defeat. The most exasperating aspect of the loss came when Hollister’s offense failed to convert critical fourth-and-one plays in the first half that would’ve had a huge impact on the game. The second sequence came late in the second quarter with the team trailing 21-0. The Balers got the ball to the Los Gatos 5 for a first-and-goal situation.

After McShane ran the ball for 4 yards to get the ball to the 1, he was absolutely stuffed on the next two plays trying to get into the end zone on a quarterback sneak. A fourth-and-goal from the 1 fared no better, as Primo Reyes was stopped short of the goal line. The play was poorly executed from the start, as McShane and Reyes didn’t have a smooth handoff exchange.

Smith couldn’t believe what he had just seen, although it was just a repeat of what happened earlier in the game. Hollister opened the game with one of its signature drives, a ground and pound attack that Los Gatos couldn’t stop. The Balers covered 75 yards on 12 plays to set up a second-and-goal from the 3-yard line. However, McShane went back to pass and was immediately leveled by a Los Gatos defender, causing a fumble that the Wildcats recovered.

Los Gatos promptly marched down the field to score a TD. Undeterred, Hollister responded with a productive drive on the very next series, reaching the Los Gatos 35-yard line with a fourth-and-one situation. Once again, Los Gatos was superior in the short-yardage situations, stopping Chris Soto for no gain. Six plays later, the Wildcats reached the end zone again, a demoralizing turn of events.

“Grit, execution,” Balers coach Bryan Smith said, when asked what he attributed the team’s inability to convert fourth-and-short situations. “One of the plays was meant to go to a certain gap, and the running back bounces it to the outside. They wanted it more than us down on the goal line, plain and simple.”

Beyond the short-yardage situation shortcomings, the Hollister defense had little resistance for a Los Gatos offense that totaled 432 yards, including 252 on the ground. The Balers had no answer for Los Gatos’ buck sweep play, which routinely gained huge chunks of yardage.

“I give them credit, I respect their program and what they do,” Smith said. “They came out and established the run game. I think they stayed in one formation for probably 65, 70 percent of the game, and they just rammed it down our throats. We had a couple of guys out, no excuses, we got beat tonight. The better team is Los Gatos tonight.”

Indeed, the Balers did have several players in street clothes, including some key starters. Smith said the Wilcox game took a physical toll on the team, which goes into a bye week before facing Aptos in the Pacific Coast League Gabilan Division opener on Sept. 27.

“We have to take a good look at our team internally and see what kind of young men we’re going to be moving forward,” Smith said. “We’ve got to get ready for Aptos and what they do. I imagine they’ll be drooling over the buck sweep that Los Gatos ran against us here all night. We have to fix it, and we have to fix some things fast.”

It wasn’t all gloom and doom for the Balers, who piled up 271 yards on the ground, with Alejandro Cosio-Arrellano (15 carries, 98 yards) and Juan De Leon (12 rushes, 89 yards) doing the majority of the damage. McShane went 5-of-9 for 31 yards and looked comfortable every time he dropped back to pass.

“I love the offense,” he said. “Our line has been doing a great job and we’ve been the physically better team (in the first two weeks). We just didn’t have the stamina and consistency. We’ve had a lot of energy, but we’re not consistent in our execution. We can’t handle adversity that good right now (and that’s something that has to change). We have a lot of leaders and they’ll step up.”

McShane started developing confidence last year, which has carried over into this season. He knows he still has a long way to go, but he’s working hard everyday in practice to improve his skills.

“I’m a lot more experienced, I know how to read the defense better and I anticipate a lot better,” he said. “Making plays (like the TD throw to Peyton) really helps a lot, and I give credit to my line because they did a great job on those plays and for my receivers in getting open.”

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