In two games this season against West Catholic League teams, the Hollister football team has come out on the losing end both times, the latest being a 17-14 defeat to Bellarmine on Saturday. What the scoreboard doesn’t show is the Haybalers being a couple of plays away in each game from being 2-0 rather than 0-2. They stood toe to toe with Bellarmine and St. Francis two weeks ago, and that’s what it will have to hang its hat on with the remaining games against King City and Palma.
“We’ll bounce back,” Balers coach Bryan Smith said. “We have two games; it’s not like we have another eight games. We have two games and so we have to make the most of the situation.”
Hollister outplayed Bellarmine in the first half, taking a 14-0 lead into halftime. On their final possession of the first quarter, Michael McShane and Anthony Mercurio hooked up two times, the last coming when Mercurio made a highlight-reel catch for a 24-yard touchdown.
Stationed on the right seam with a Bellarmine defender draped all over him, Mercurio made a leaping grab as he extended his arms in front of the Bellarmine player, winning the jump ball. Three plays prior, McShane hit Mercurio for a 31-yard gain, a perfectly-placed ball that Mercurio (three receptions, 60 yards) caught while keeping his feet in-bounds along the right sideline. After forcing Bellarmine (0-2) to punt on the ensuing possession, Hollister took advantage of great field position as Primo Reyes ran for a 45-yard TD to make it 14-0 with 9 minutes, 54 seconds left in the second quarter.
The play highlighted the offensive line’s terrific down blocks and kick out blocks as A.J. Flores and Khader Yasin celebrated knowing they had helped deliver a lane for Reyes (79 yards on 17 carries) to break through. Unfortunately for Hollister, it went the entire way without scoring again. After the Bells took a 17-14 lead with 4:39 to go, the Balers had two offensive series to go in for the potential winning score.
Both times they fell short, though they made things somewhat interesting after Tyler Pacheco connected with Justin Cortez for a 37-yard play over the middle that advanced the ball to the Bellarmine 39-yard line. However, the Bells forced three straight incompletions before intercepting a fourth-down pass to seal the outcome. The Balers generated all of two first downs in the entire second half.
“You have to be consistent and they were a bend but don’t break defense, so they force you to take the six and seven and eight yard gain,” Smith said. “But then you have to do that methodically all the way down the field and we didn’t do it well nearly enough.”
Bellarmine finished with 243 yards of total offense to Hollister’s 195. McShane and Pacheco combined to complete 11 of 25 passes for 134 yards. The quarterback duo produced a beauty of a play when McShane delivered a quick hitter to Pacheco for a 10-yard gain near the end of the third quarter, a play that saw Pacheco use deft footwork to stay in bounds along the left sideline.
While Hollister was shut out in the second half, its defense stood tall throughout. Led by Grant Dietz, Ricky Navarro, Mateo Reyes and Derek Sandoval—who combined for several quarterback pressures, tackles and pass breakups—the defense forced Bellarmine to punt seven times with Jorge Rodriguez blocking a 30-yard field goal attempt early in the fourth quarter.
“Our defense played really well,” Smith said. “You saw some guys flying all over the field making plays. They might have forced Bellarmine to punt over 10 times, but we didn’t take advantage of it offensively.”