Trevor Fabing reacts to the failed two-point conversion try that would have won the game for the Balers in the last 19 seconds of play Friday night.
music in the park san jose

Following a 13-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Trevor
Fabing to running back Bryan Gutierrez with 19 seconds remaining in
the fourth quarter Friday night
— a touchdown that pulled the Haybalers to within one point of
rival Palma — San Benito opted for the two-point conversion and the
But the Chieftains blitzed up the middle, forcing Fabing to
throw early. The pass was batted down in the right corner of the
end zone, and Palma held on for a 24-23 victory at the Salinas
Sports Complex.

Chris Cameron didn’t think twice about the decision.

“No way,” the San Benito head coach said. “Not a thought at all.”

“I was thinking win it the whole time.”

Trying to end a three-game losing streak to rival Palma, as well as grab the inside track on the Tri-County Athletic League title, the Balers went for the victory.

There’s no shame in that.

Following a 13-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Trevor Fabing to running back Bryan Gutierrez with 19 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter Friday night – a touchdown that pulled the Haybalers to within one point of the Chieftains – San Benito opted for the two-point conversion and the win.

But when Palma blitzed up the middle on the two-point attempt and forced Fabing to throw early, it was defensive back Bruce Taylor who batted down the game-winning desperation pass in the right corner of the end zone, and the Chieftains escaped with a 24-23 triumph — a nail-biter that will only add another chapter to the storied rivalry.

“You couldn’t ask for a better game than that for the TCAL championship,” said Fabing, who threw for 170 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 9 of 12 passing Friday night. “It came down to the last play of the game, but it just didn’t work out for us.”

No, few games this season will be able to trump Friday night’s instant classic at the Salinas Sports Complex. The wild second half all but ensured that much, while Palma (5-0 TCAL, 7-1-1) guaranteed itself at least a share of the TCAL title with its incredible one-point win.

“It’s gotta be one of the best games, most hard fought games,” said head coach Jeff Carnazzo, who’s in his 10th season at the helm for Palma. “Chris (Cameron) and I talked on the phone before and we said it was gonna be a slugfest. And that’s exactly what it was — a slugfest.”

The slugfest nearly went San Benito’s way, too. The Balers carried a 14-3 lead to halftime, and even compiled 369 yards of total offense to Palma’s 232. But three turnovers in the game — one of which was picked up for a Chieftain touchdown — led to San Benito’s undoing, and at the very least aided Palma to its second straight league championship.

“We had three. They had none,” Cameron said. “They didn’t have any turnovers and it comes down to playing a cleaner game and executing better.

“That’s what you take away right now.”

The loss — San Benito’s first this season — drops the Balers to 8-1 overall, 4-1 in the TCAL. Its regular-season finale will come next Friday at Andy Hardin Stadium in Hollister, where the Balers will host Gilroy in the 53rd Annual Prune Bowl.

“We can take it to heart and take it to Gilroy next week,” San Benito linebacker Michael Murphy said of the disappointing loss.

“But it’s very depressing because we’ve worked so hard this season. I’d hate to lose by one point in the one game we lose this season. It’s very hard.”

The Balers watched its 14-3 halftime lead evaporate less than eight minutes into the third quarter on Friday night. San Benito’s very first play from scrimmage to open the second half — an option pitch to the right side — resulted in a fumble that bounced right into lineman Max Gibbons’ hands. Ten yards and two broken tackles later, Gibbons marched into the end zone and stole away almost all of San Benito’s first-half momentum.

“I think we have to do a better job coming out in the second half,” Fabing said. “We shot ourselves in the foot with that fumble and then they scored. That changed the momentum in the game.”

Palma’s very next offensive possession proved as much.

Starting from their own 40, the Chieftains orchestrated a quick, five-play, 60-yard scoring drive that began with an Austen Fales hitch-route pass to Bruce Taylor, who beat his man to the right sideline and sprinted 31 yards downfield.

“We didn’t want to abandon the run, but they’re stout up front,” Carnazzo said. “We were struggling running (the ball), but we knew we were gonna have to pass.”

The Chieftains certainly didn’t abandon the run when running back Jack Baird, who was held to 93 yards on 23 attempts, took the next four plays 29 yards, culminating in a 5-yard touchdown off the left tackle to give Palma a 17-14 lead.

“They put drives together and not many teams have been able to put drives together on our defense,” Murphy said. “But we played an extremely tough game.”

It was only the third time the Balers have trailed an opponent this season. But each time San Benito has trailed this year, its answered right back with a scoring drive.

That much was true on Friday night when the Balers took 12 plays to march 85 yards, highlighted by a Nick Acosta 18-yard run that positioned San Benito with a first-and-goal at the Palma 5.

Acosta finished with 102 yards on 25 carries.

But after advancing the ball into Palma’s red zone, the Balers couldn’t find the end zone after three straight running plays. Kicker Tino Granados, however, provided the 17-all equalizer with a 20-yard field goal at 10:05 in the fourth quarter.

“They probably knew they’d have to shut down our running game,” Fabing said.

San Benito appeared to reclaim a bit of the momentum, though, when lineman Marcos Silva wrapped up Baird for no gain on a key third-and-two play on the very next possession, and the Balers took over at their own 16 following a Palma punt.

With a 40-yard pass from Fabing to the receiver Cornell putting San Benito into Chieftain territory, though, the Balers worked their way down to Palma’s 32-yard line after the senior signal-caller picked up seven yards on a third-and-eight play. But dealt with a fourth-and-one, San Benito opted to go for it, and were stopped for no gain on a well-timed Palma blitz.

“It was do-or-die right there,” Fabing said.

The Chieftains took over at their own 36, and two plays later, Fales delivered a 65-yard touchdown strike to receiver Josh Vultaggio down the right sideline to give Palma a 24-17 lead with 3:03 remaining.

“That was my quarterback who called that play,” Carnazzo said of Fales. “He said, ‘Coach, I think we can score on that one.’ So that was all Austen Fales on that one.

“I deserve no credit for calling that one. It was all him.”

No one San Benito’s sideline was giving up, however, despite playing from behind for the second time in the game. And when return man Jordan Ashford brought the ball out to San Benito’s 46, coupled with a facemask penalty on Palma that allowed San Benito to start from the Chieftains 49, the Balers suddenly had a spark.

Fabing went to work, hitting Cornell for a 13-yard pick-up, then again to Cornell for nine more yards to Palma’s 35.

“They were giving me a lot of cushion,” said Cornell, who caught eight passes for a season-high 157 yards Friday.

When a Palma pass interference call gave San Benito a new set of downs from the 15, Acosta went up the middle for two yards with 30 seconds remaining.

And on third-and-eight, Fabing hit Gutierrez on a 13-yard swing pass to the right side — the senior running back diving to the pylon to pull the Balers to within one point, setting up San Benito’s two-point attempt.

“We played a heckuva game,” Cameron said. “We had an opportunity to win on the last play, and we didn’t win on the last play. But I’m proud of them and they played their tails off. We just came up a little short tonight.”

San Benito jumped out to a 14-0 lead when Fabing hit Cornell on a 71-yard skinny post in the first quarter, while Acosta tacked on a second score midway through the second with a hard-fought 2-yard touchdown up the middle — the senior fullback emerging from the end-zone pile without his helmet.

Palma provided its lone first-half score when kicker Christian Cordona split the uprights on a 24-yard field goal with 39 seconds remaining in the half.

“We had them beat in the first half,” Murphy said.

“But they came to play in the second half and that’s when it means the most.”

San Benito will look to quickly rebound next week when Gilroy visits — the Balers’ final game before the Central Coast Section playoffs.

Kick-off is 7:30 p.m.

“It’s hard. It’s a loss,” Cornell said. “But we’ve got to keep our heads up … and take it out on Gilroy.”

Said Cameron, “It’s not over.”

TEAM 1 2 3 4 F

SANB 7 7 0 9 23

PALM 0 3 14 7 24


First Quarter

PASS (6:01) — SANB, Trevor Fabing to Andre Cornell, 71-yard touchdown, PAT (Tino Granados) is good; 7-0, SANB.

Second Quarter

RUSH (7:36) — SANB, Nick Acosta, 2-yard touchdown, PAT (Tino Granados) is good; 14-0, SANB.

KICK (:39) — PALM, Christian Cordona, 24-yard field goal; 14-3, SANB.

Third Quarter

FUMBLE RETURN (11:48) — PALM, Max Gibbons, 10-yard fumble return, PAT (Christian Cordona) is good; 14-10, SANB.

RUSH (4:43) — PALM, Jack Baird, 5-yard touchdown, PAT (Christian Cordona) is good; 17-14, PALM.

Fourth Quarter

KICK (10:05) — SANB, Tino Granados, 20-yard field goal; 17-17.

PASS (3:03) — PALM, Austen Fales to Josh Vultaggio, 65-yard touchdown, PAT (Christian Cordona) is good; 24-17, PALM.

PASS (:19) — SANB, Trevor Fabing to Bryan Gutierrez, 13-yard touchdown, Two-point conversion is no good; 24-23, PALM.


Passing: Trevor Fabing — 9 of 12, 170 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception. Rushing: Trevor Fabing — 10 attempts, 18 yards; Nick Acosta — 25 attempts, 102 yards, 1 touchdown; Junior Davila — 3 attempts, 17 yards; Bryan Gutierrez — 4 attempts, 48 yards; Cody Hendricks — 2 attempts, 7 yards; Wayne Urbina — 1 attempt, 1 yard; Andre Cornell — 1 attempt, 6 yards. Receiving: Andre Cornell — 8 receptions, 157 yards, 1 touchdown; Bryan Gutierrez — 1 reception, 13 yards, 1 touchdown.


Passing: Austen Fales — 7 of 13, 118 yards, 1 touchdown. Rushing: Austen Fales — 5 attempts, 13 yards; Jack Baird — 23 attempts, 93 yards, 1 touchdown; Bruce Taylor — 2 attempts, 8 yards. Receiving: Bruce Taylor — 4 receptions, 56 yards; Josh Vultaggio — 1 reception, 65 yards, 1 touchdown; Garrett Taylor — 1 reception, 2 yards; Jack Baird — 1 reception, -5 yards.


San Benito — 369 yards (170 pass, 199 rush)

Palma — 232 yards (118 pass, 114 rush)


San Benito — 3

Palma — 0


San Benito — 1 sack (Jacob Benitez) for -6 yards.

Palma — 2 sacks (Blair Gardiner, John Andrus) for -13 yards.

JV Note:

Although the San Benito High junior varsity football team scored on its very first drive Friday night against Palma, it fumbled on its next two possessions and lost 35-21 to the host Chieftains at the Salinas Sports Complex.

The loss drops the Balers to 2-3 in the Tri-County Athletic League, 5-4 overall.

San Benito quarterback Garrett Avina put the Balers up 7-0 in the first quarter when he scored a rushing touchdown from 10 yards out. However, Palma answered to tie the game at 7-all, and the Balers fumbled on its next two offensive possessions — both of which came inside their own 20-yard line.

The Chieftains, handed a short field each time, capitalized on both turnovers to take a 21-7 lead into halftime.

“We started off great and scored right away,” San Benito head coach Matt Andrade said. “We had them on their heels.

“But those two fumbles, that pretty much cost us (the game) right there.”

After Palma increased its lead to 28-7, the Balers cut into three-score deficit when running back Eddie Perez deposited a touchdown from one yard out.

San Benito trailed 28-13 heading into the fourth quarter, and 35-13 once Palma pocketed its fifth touchdown of the game in the final stanza. The Balers answered when John Hartshorn ran the ball in from four yards out, but Palma’s lead was too great to overcome late in the game.

San Benito will host Gilroy next Friday in the regular-season finale. The annual Prune Bowl is scheduled to kick-off at 5 p.m., at Andy Hardin Stadium in Hollister.

Frosh Note:

The San Benito High freshmen football team lost to Palma 41-18 Friday afternoon at the Salinas Sports Complex.

Details were not available at press time.

The Balers will host Gilroy next Thursday in the regular-season finale. The annual Prune Bowl is scheduled to kick-off at 6 p.m., at Andy Hardin Stadium in Hollister.

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


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