San Benito linebacker Michael Murphy flies through the air to assist on a tackle last Friday night against Gilroy. The Balers will open the CCS postseason on Friday night when they will take on Independence High in Hollister.

No one ever said winning a Central Coast Section title was going
to be easy.
After the San Benito Haybalers opened their 2009 campaign with
eight consecutive victories, and positioned themselves as a team to
beat come the postseason, the Balers dropped back-to-back games
against Palma and Gilroy the last two weeks, and suddenly find
themselves banged up on both sides of the ball.
But while the recent setbacks weren’t enough to prevent the
Balers from earning the No. 1 seed in Division I, San Benito head
coach Chris Cameron’s call for

character time

following last week’s loss perhaps now carries more weight.
HOLLISTER

No one ever said winning a Central Coast Section title was going to be easy.

After the San Benito Haybalers opened their 2009 campaign with eight consecutive victories, and positioned themselves as a team to beat come the postseason, the Balers dropped back-to-back games against Palma and Gilroy the last two weeks, and suddenly find themselves banged up on both sides of the ball.

But while the recent setbacks weren’t enough to prevent the Balers from earning the No. 1 seed in Division I, San Benito head coach Chris Cameron’s call for “character time” following last week’s loss perhaps now carries more weight.

“The chemistry is a little different all of a sudden,” Cameron said.

The biggest difference on Friday night will be the absence of senior quarterback Trevor Fabing, who separated his shoulder during the fourth quarter of last Friday’s game against Gilroy.

Junior backup Tyler Decker, who filled in for Fabing in the final stanza of last week’s Prune Bowl, will get the start behind center Friday night as No. 8 Independence (6-3-1) comes to Hollister’s Andy Hardin Stadium for a first round match-up.

“Decker, he’s gonna do all right,” said senior fullback Nick Acosta, who’s compiled 383 yards and four touchdowns on just 53 carries the last three weeks.

“He’s a good little running back and he’s getting better at passing,” Acosta added. “Offensively, we’ve been doing our thing. I think we’re gonna be all right on Friday.”

Garrett Avina was pulled up from the junior varsity team this week and will act as backup to Decker, while San Benito offensive coordinator Bryan Smith said the offense won’t change much with the absence of Fabing.

“It’s a huge setback in that [Fabing’s] been the leader of our team and his work ethic has been tremendous,” Smith said. “He’s led our team all year offensively, statistically and emotionally.

“Tyler is gonna step in and he’s got to play his game, which isn’t Trevor Fabing’s … I think he can lead us down the field and manage the game.”

San Benito (8-2) earned the top seed in Division I, which may ensure the Balers a better draw than others, but Cameron said the team’s unexpected make-up of late will force the team to play a cleaner brand of football.

“We’re gonna find out who’s gonna show up on Friday night,” Cameron said. “Now it’s even more important to play better and eliminate mistakes just because our chemistry is different.

“We’ve lost a couple of guys who were major contributors, so it’s really important to rally around the guys that are filling in and eliminate poor mistakes.”

Losing the turnover battle by a 6-2 margin in its last two games, San Benito will need a quick turnaround against a reeling 76ers team that has won four straight games since tying Willow Glen 22-22 on Oct. 17.

The week prior to that, however, Independence lost 34-18 to Andrew Hill, which San Benito defeated 17-7 during Week 1.

Aside from their recent string of victories, though, the Sixers could see a boost from star running back Derek Muaava, who’s already committed to San Jose State, Cameron said. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound senior back hasn’t played this season due to injury, but could very well be in the Independence backfield along with Robert Rodriguez (105 carries, 882 yards, 9 touchdowns) and Joe Pauli (60 carries, 461 yards, 9 touchdowns).

During his junior season, Muaava ran for 1,127 yards and seven touchdowns on 144 carries, and caught for 230 yards and two touchdowns on 15 receptions.

“He’s supposed to be the real deal at running back,” Smith said.

Pauli, meanwhile, seconds as a safety and had recorded 13.9 tackles a game, according to MaxPreps.com.

“Our defense has to come out and pitch a shutout to help our offense, and we need to score some points on defense to help the offense a little bit,” San Benito linebacker Michael Murphy said. “But we need to come big.”

The last time San Benito played Independence in the Central Coast Section playoffs was in 2005, when the Balers routed the 76ers 39-6 in the Large School Division semifinals before upending Oak Grove in the championship game.

“They’re gonna come in and play with a lot of emotion,” Cameron said. “We need to play like we played the first nine games, and not like how we came out last week.”

No. 1 San Benito will host No. 8 Independence in the Central Coast Section Division I playoffs Friday night at 7 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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