A year after getting blown out in the Super Bowl, the Hollister Rebels Midget football team completed an undefeated season with a dominating 30-14 win over the Toro Bulls at Rabobank Stadium on Nov. 20. Hollister finished the season a perfect 11-0 playing in the Monterey Bay Youth Football League (MBYFL), which has 12 teams covering four different age divisions.
The divisions break down as such: Mighty Mites flag football for ages 4-6, Junior Pee Wee tackle football for ages 7-8, Pee Wee for ages 9-11 and Midget for ages 11-13. Three days before the Super Bowl, Rebels coach Tyler Staal felt confident and had no doubt the team would come through.
And that’s exactly what it did.
“They’re excited, they’re ready, and we’ve given them everything they need to know,” he said. “They’ve answered the call every time and they’ve been waiting for this.”
In 11 games, Hollister outscored its opponents 378-66, which equates to an average score of 34-6 per contest. The Rebels’ only close call came in a come from behind 22-18 win over Soledad in the league playoff semifinals.
Needing a touchdown to win, the Rebels went 70 yards on five plays to pull out a riveting, white-knuckle comeback victory against a team they didn’t play during the regular-season.
“Soledad gave us a run for our money,” Staal said. “We beat them in the last four minutes of the game.”
Staal continued: “The boys wanted it more. We haven’t been fazed and we just answered them. Everyone did their job and that’s it. After we scored, we held them on defense in the last minute. We weren’t fazed too much because they’re a different team. They weren’t going to accept that loss and they were going to do everything in their power to win and that’s what they did.”
The Rebels were humbled 60-0 in last year’s Super Bowl, which gave them the impetus to come back for 2022 as a team on a mission.
“Getting beat and smashed like that, hey, you know what, it’s a part of football. The kids got a taste of it last year and came back with a vengeance,” Staal said.
The MBYFL is a run-heavy league and Hollister is no exception, having relied on a stable of tailbacks to gouge the opposition. The two who were responsible for gaining most of the team’s rushing yards include Cole Seymour and Isaak Hernandez.
Seymour scored the winning TD against Soledad, the only game in which the Rebels trailed all season out of 11 games.
“They’re both outstanding football players,” Staal said. “One is smash mouth and the other is more finesse and will beat you with speed. Isaak is more ground and pound and Cole can go the long distance as a speed-type guy. We run the rock a lot because we have too many good running backs not to.”
Braiden Hernandez also proved to be a difference-maker carrying the ball in the team’s rushing attack.
“Braiden plays receiver and defensive end and is our utility knife,” Staal said.
The Hollister coach also raved about quarterback Enrique Rivas’ decision-making and ability to make plays when sometimes it didn’t look like there was anything to be had.
“The kid is unreal, especially at this age,” Staal said.
Of course, a strong rushing attack starts with the offensive line, and Hollister had the best unit in the league starting with Kody Dickens, a 6-4, 290-pound center.
“He’s a first-year football player, but the guy has it man,” Staal said. “He’s really smart, a great athlete, a leader, a coach’s dream. He just keeps getting knowledge under him and there’s no telling how good this kid can be.”
Guards Luke Mahler and Fayez Yasin along with tackles Cisco Victory and Adrian Mimila complete a powerful offensive line that continually got to the second level all season, freeing the running backs for huge gains.
As is commonplace in youth football, the best players usually go both ways. The team’s defense was so good that most opponents had their offense stall from beginning to end. That’s because Hollister had some serious beef on its defensive line, including 6-foot, 300-pound nose guard Angelo Garza, who demanded double teams and allowed talented linebackers like Isaak Hernandez to fly in and make tackles for losses.
“Angelo is why teams can’t run up the middle on us,” Staal said. “He’s the heart of the defense, he makes it happen for us in the middle and he makes Isaak’s job real easy in the middle.”
Tackles Kadrian Bonilla and Mahler flanked Garza to form an immovable line, and linebackers Isaak Hernandez, Braiden Hernandez, Xavier Bonilla, Raymond Veloz and Seymour made tackles all over the field, usually at or behind the line of scrimmage.
When opponents tried to pass, cornerbacks Noe Morin and Tanner Frisco and free safety Enrique Rivas were there to break up passes or come up with interceptions. Staal credited everyone involved with the organization for the team’s success.
“I have a great coaching staff and a great support system,” he said. “The team moms, the parents, the league, it’s a group effort.”
Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]