It wouldn’t be a stretch to say the Hollister High football team is coming off one of the more improbable victories in program history.
Trailing by 10 points to Monterey High with under four minutes remaining in their Sept. 16 non-league game, the Haybalers pulled off a semi-miracle, highlighted by Abel Galindo’s 15-yard touchdown pass to Robert Holsten. Galindo rolled out to his right and was being tackled as he threw the ball down the right seam.
A Monterey player deflected the ball, but it landed in the arms of Holsten at the 7-yard line. Holsten went untouched to the end zone as the Hollister sideline and home fans went wild. Hollister wound up winning 17-16, in a white-knuckle contest.
It was a much-needed victory for the Balers, who were coming off rather uninspiring losses to Wilcox and Valley Christian. Up next: a Friday home game against powerful Salinas High.
Balers senior Isaiah Aguayo epitomizes the team’s resolve and willingness to overcome adversity. The senior free safety missed his junior season due to a dislocated shoulder, but he’s emerged as a playmaker for a defense that has been rock solid this season.
Aguayo had an interception in the team’s first two games against Oak Grove and Wilcox, respectively. In the latter contest, Aguayo leaped high to pick off a pass near the left pylon, preventing a Wilcox touchdown. Aguayo said he knew the ball was coming his way because he had seen it watching game video preparing for the Chargers.
“I saw it off the bat,” he said. “They like to run that play a lot with the quarterback rolling out. I saw their wide receiver get deep in my zone. It was their passing concept I had seen on film. As soon as I saw the ball, I knew it was mine and just went for it.”
Despite playing well, Aguayo said he still has another level to reach.
“I would say I can get better on my reads and attack the ball more instead of the play coming to me,” he said. “On run plays, I’d like to get more tackles and just be a playmaker. So I’m looking forward to the upcoming weeks because I feel like I can bring a lot more.”
Aguayo is a semi-newcomer to Hollister High, having spent the first 2 ½ years of high school at Santa Teresa High in San Jose. A couple of weeks before the start of the 2021 season, Aguayo dislocated his shoulder in practice, sidelining him for the season.
It was a devastating injury that he still deals with today. Aguayo said he has a chronic dislocation, meaning he has repeated instances of his shoulder giving or “popping” out—most of the cases happen during a game. In the Wilcox contest, Aguayo said his shoulder popped out twice, the first a couple of plays prior to his interception.
“I usually get it taped but even with that and a brace, it comes out,” he said. “I lose feeling for a bit, but you just live with it and play on. I can’t let it affect me too much. The shoulder is out for a couple of seconds and I know how to pop it in quickly. I wouldn’t say it’s too painful. It is more of a weird, numb feeling. It’s not something I enjoy, but the pain usually only lasts for a play or two. After that, I feel like I’m back to playing normally. But I’m still learning how to play with it.”
Aguayo plans on undergoing surgery after the season is over, so he’ll be better prepared to play in college, most likely at the community college level initially. Aguayo grew up in Morgan Hill and started playing youth and Pop Warner football at age 5.
He did that all the way until his seventh-grade year, before taking a year off to focus on baseball. The short time away reinvigorated his love for the pigskin—not that he ever lost his passion for the sport.
“Ever since coming back, I’ve felt more in love with football than any other sport,” he said. “Baseball was my first sport, but football is the one I wanted to stick with.”
Aguayo happens to be the team’s backup quarterback, so if anything happens to starter Abel Galindo, Aguayo needs to be ready.
“When the offense goes in practice, I get in under center (and get my reps in),” he said. “I get the plays down and just learn it. I’m always watching Abel and asking questions just in case if I do have to play QB, I can hop right in and do OK.”
Aguayo played quarterback as a freshman and sophomore at Santa Teresa High before switching positions to running back and cornerback in his junior year.
“I like running the ball a lot, so I would say running back always has a spot in my heart,” he said. “But I love where I’m playing now.”
That includes his position and location, as Hollister High football is known for having a great atmosphere at its games and being a dedicated prep football program. “I would say it’s a great environment and when the crowd goes crazy, it’s amazing to be a part of that,” he said.
Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]