Haybalers’ aerial attack too much for King City

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Chris Soto breaks a tackle en route to a huge gain in the Balers' 45-20 win over King City on Friday. Photo by Robert Eliason.

In past years, the Hollister football team beat opponents by running the ball. But this isn’t just any year. In a season unlike any other, perhaps it’s only appropriate the Haybalers did something they haven’t done in a very long time—absolutely blitz an opponent through the air. Michael McShane’s career night was one of the many highlights in a 45-20 home win over King City on Friday. 

The senior signal caller was 12-of-17 for 264 yards with touchdown throws of 29, 47, 27 and 20 yards. Three of those touchdowns went to Chris Soto, the dynamic playmaker who also had a career night with seven receptions for 166 yards. McShane seemingly couldn’t misfire as the game went on, as he finished the contest with 10—count them, 10—straight completions. 

“It feels great to play at home and get this win,” McShane said. 

Indeed, after two close losses to ultra-tough West Catholic League teams to open the season, the Balers were itching for a victory. They got it with dominating performances both on offense and defense. 

“I’m excited for the guys because I just wanted them to feel what it’s like to win,” Hollister coach Bryan Smith said. “It’s fairly emotional because it’s been a long road.”

A road that has consisted of over 100 workouts, early-morning conditioning sessions, and dealing with all the hoops and hurdles such as not being able to use footballs or maintaining social distance during parts of the last several months. Despite all that, the Balers’ renowned work ethic has paid off. Hollister shredded the King City defense through the air in its first season utilizing a multiple personnel, spread offensive set. 

Time and again McShane connected with his receivers in virtually every way possible: in the seams, down the sidelines and over the middle. Pacheco, who also plays QB, has added another dimension to the Hollister offense with his ability to catch balls. The junior had three receptions for 65 yards, including a 20 yard highlight-reel catch for a TD in which he basically grabbed a jump ball away from the defender who was draped all over him. Pacheco also had an 8-yard TD run on a QB keeper on the team’s first possession in the third quarter, showcasing his athleticism as he juked a defender at the 5-yard line before reaching the end zone.

“We’ve got a wild card with Tyler Pacheco, who can do a lot of different things,” Smith said. “He’s not as consistent as Mike (at QB), but he’s definitely a dynamic player so we’re having fun with that.”

McShane and Pacheco happen to be close friends, as they hang out a lot off the field and live only a couple of streets away from each other. 

“Whenever I’m at his house or he’s at my house, we’re throwing the ball,” McShane said. “If we’re bored we’ll go to the park and throw the ball an hour or two.” 

Their chemistry off the field has obviously transferred to great results on the gridiron, as the two have connected six times over the last two games. When Smith and the coaching staff elected to change things up offensively after the 2019 season ended, McShane was so excited he had trouble sleeping for a couple of nights. 

“When coach let me know we’d be switching up the offense, you can imagine how happy I was,” McShane said. “Teammates started throwing right away the next day, and we threw for 12 months straight just to get prepared for this new offense. The offense loves it, the defense loves it when we score points and basically everyone loves it.”

After the offensive line had some trouble picking up the blitz against Bellarmine, Smith said it did a much better job in that area against King City. 

“The guys you don’t hear of much, they played much better tonight,” Smith said. “Guys like Jobe Salvador, our center who is still working on the snap, Miguel Sahagun and right tackle Mack Stiers.”

All of the Hollister skill players were beneficiaries of the offensive line play, including tailback Primo Reyes, who finished with 99 yards on 12 carries. Weaving in and out and making cuts on a dime, Reyes’ brilliance comes from his ability to avoid big hits which is vital for a running back’s longevity and effectiveness. 

“I would say he’s a little like Marcus Allen (NFL Hall of Fame running back),” Smith said. “If you ever watched Marcus Allen, he never got tattered. He always knew how to shift his body and twist and turn but still worked extremely hard. Primo is undersized, but his heart is huge. He’s obviously a great worker in the backfield and he’s athletic.”

Ashton Buzzetta had nine carries for 50 yards, Anthony Mercruio had a 24-yard TD reception and Justin Cortez finished with three catches for 39 yards. 

Defensively, Smith pointed to interior linemen Ricky Navarro and Joseph Dickerson for “leading the charge.” He added that after watching video from the first two games, Navarro has been consistent in his ability to beat the player—or players—in front of him. 

“No one has dominated him,” Smith said. 

The Hollister defense played its best when it counted the most, shutting down King City to help the Balers go into halftime with a commanding 32-6 lead. Moments after the game was over, McShane was already thinking about the season-finale against rival Palma. 

“We see them a lot (in sports), so we’d love to beat them,” he said. “That’s all we want to do because it’s the biggest rivalry and bragging rights game of the year.”

Smith said McShane has been a tremendous leader as the team transitioned to a new offense. 

“We run our smoothest when Michael is at the quarterback position,” Smith said. 

Hollister linebacker Derek Sandoval tackles a King City player in Friday’s game. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Tyler Pacheco accounted for three TDs, one by throwing, another by running and the other by receiving. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Balers QB Michael McShane had a game to remember, completing 12 of 17 passes for 264 yards and four TDs. Photo by Robert Eliason.

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