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August 4, 2021

Balers wrap up 7 on 7s; Smith excited for upcoming season

Two days after the Hollister football team scrimmaged five squads in a 7 on 7 passing league tournament on July 17 at Westmont High, quarterback Tyler Pacheco’s throwing arm was sore—and for good reason.  

“I was feeling it Sunday and especially Monday morning after practice,” he said. “It was a lot of throws, especially with the warmups.”

Pacheco will be fine in no time, especially considering the way he and the team looked in the scrimmages. The 7 on 7 passing league tournaments are a quarterback’s dream, as they can drop back to pass and not have to worry about a 250-pound defensive lineman looking to plant them into the ground. 

But on a hot, sweltering day that saw field temperature reach the mid-90s, one could say Pacheco and his teammates had to summon every ounce of energy to get through the day. Known for their conditioning, the Haybalers left the 7 on 7 feeling optimistic about the season ahead. 

Even though 7 on 7 passing league tournaments are free of line play and contact, teams still value them as a chance for offenses to work on their timing and defenses to execute what they’ve been doing in practice. To that end, Haybalers coach Bryan Smith —now entering his sixth season at the helm—said the team’s performance was a success. 

“We grew within those five games and got better each time,” Smith said. “I think Christopher was the only ‘A’ team we went against and we had some success, so we were able to build confidence in that scrimmage. Our skill guys were able to build some confidence, get in timing and really show rhythm on offense and execute on defense as well.”

Depending on how many different quarterbacks get in reps, it’s no stretch to say a starter will throw upwards of 100 times in a single scrimmage. Smith commended the play of Pacheco, who also was used at the slot and outside receiver positions last season, a testament to his athleticism. 

“Tyler Pacheco has done an amazing job this summer,” Smith said. “He and I talked on Saturday and he said he felt much more comfortable than at any point in time in the four games we played in the spring. He has taken on a leadership role, helping young guys, receivers, running backs, cheering on the defense. He’s had a really good summer for us and I wouldn’t be saying that if he didn’t.”

Pacheco said a big part of the reason why he felt in tune with his receivers is because they’re going into their fourth season playing together. 

“We’re all seniors now and these are the guys I’ve grown with since freshman year,” he said. “We’re always going out to the park, this class of 2022, and playing together going on our fourth year, the chemistry is really starting to show.”

The Balers went 2-2 in the Covid-shortened season, dropping a pair of close games to St. Francis and Bellarmine before rebounding with a dominating win over King City and a nail-biting triumph over Palma. When Pacheco got snaps under center, he showed flashes of brilliance to go along with bouts of inconsistency. 

However, Pacheco said he’s more confident in his mental approach as the 2021 season nears. 

“Last season when I was playing QB, I was being an athlete and trying to make big plays every play as Mike McShane was the starter,” Pacheco said. “Now being the starter I’m trying to get my guys open and build those connections and start to think about not only being an athlete, but a field general and helping our team get wins.”

The Balers had already competed in two separate 7 on 7 scrimmages before the July 17 event, and Smith wanted to see further improvement in Pacheco’s timing with his receivers. That included being on schedule, throwing the ball at the precise moment it’s supposed to be thrown, not holding onto the ball and working through progressions. 

“Defensively, we’re continuing to harp on lining up correctly, getting in the right defense, making the right checks and using the fundamental techniques that were taught in the summer to then execute our assignments,” Smith said. “I thought we did that and had a lot of success over the weekend.”

Smith praised the offensive line for having worked the longest out of any unit this summer. In center A.J. Flores, tackles Kyle Edwards and Michael Curto and guards/center Karim and Khader Yasin, the Balers once again should be rock-solid on the offensive line. 

“These five guys really worked hard in getting ready,” Smith said. “A.J. is doing a good job of taking care of the ball and learning the offense and schemes we’re implementing.”

Smith is also excited about the returning secondary of cornerbacks Jayden Freidt and Andrew Speech along with free safety Mateo Reyes and strong safety Derek Sandoval, who will be entering his third season as a starter. 

“They are really good and continuing to grow and improve,” Smith said. “Andrew Speech and Mateo Reyes will see both sides of the ball because they are dynamic playmakers and really good defensively. Jayden Freidt is a really explosive athlete and a great young man.”

Ashton Buzzetta looks to take over the starting running back position after showing flashes of potential last season as a backup. Smith said the senior has put on eight to 10 pounds of muscle, is explosive and “looks to carry the load for us.” Victor Villafuerte, a 6-foot-2, 175-pound receiver, has shown tremendous improvement with his consistency and ball-catching skills, Smith said. And incoming junior Izaiha Molina returns at receiver and ended last season with a terrific game against Palma. 

“Izaiha Molina runs the bubble routes off the perimeter and is a smaller, explosive scatback kind of guy who is great in the slot,” Smith said.

Fellow junior James Breen also has impressed in summer workouts and looks to give Pacheco another reliable target at receiver. Smith said four players are battling for two inside linebacker positions, including A.J. Valencia, Maliki Harrison, David Solis and Josh Martinez. 

With the season-opener just over five weeks away, Smith is brimming with excitement as he hopes the Balers can springboard the Covid-shortened 2020 season into something special this fall. 

“We’ve got a great bunch of kids who are very respectful and looked at highly throughout our community,” he said. “If nothing crazy happens from now until our opener (with Covid), I look forward to seeing our community come support our players at the games and our players giving back to the community as well.”

Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]

Izaiha Molina makes a nice catch during the 7 on 7 passing league tournament on July 17. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Keith Pelaiz Jr. looks to beat his man to the ball in the all-day 7 on 7 tournament. Photo by Robert Eliason.
The Balers’ Mateo Reyes makes a great catch under duress during one of the team’s 7 on 7 scrimmages at Westmont High. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Emanuel Lee
Sports Editor of the Gilroy Dispatch, Hollister Free Lance and Morgan Hill Times. PR of 3:13.40 at the 2019 CIM. Hebrews 12:1.

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