Haybaler fullback Chris Brigantino is chased down after a big gain during the Division II Championship game Friday night at San Jose City College.
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SAN JOSE
–– The San Benito Haybalers started off strong in the Central
Coast Section Division II Championship Friday night at San Jose
City College, but the Aptos Mariners were not to be denied their
first section title.
The Balers finished their season at 9-3-1 after the 26-12 loss
to Aptos (12-1). San Benito will have to wait another year for its
fifth CCS title.
SAN JOSE –– The San Benito Haybalers started off strong in the Central Coast Section Division II Championship Friday night at San Jose City College, but the Aptos Mariners were not to be denied their first section title.

The Balers finished their season at 9-3-1 after the 26-12 loss to Aptos (12-1). San Benito will have to wait another year for its fifth CCS title.

“It was the most enjoyable team I have coached in my 10 years,” said Baler coach Chris Cameron. “I am extremely proud of how we finished. They all did a great job this season. Aptos played a good game. You have to tip your hat.”

After the Mariners scored on the opening kickoff with an 85-yard return by Andrew Ortega, the Balers countered with a pair of short runs for touchdowns.

San Benito tied the score about a minute after the return. Chris Uribe ran the kick back 46 yards, and Chris Brigantino had a 47-yard run before he was tackled at the 1-yard line. Manny Hinojos ran it in from there.

On the following kick, Ed Merlo stripped a ball out of the Mariners’ hands. That gave the Balers good field position at the Aptos 31-yard line. The Balers put together seven straight running plays but were unable to get the ball in the end zone from four yards out.

But the Balers did score on their next drive on a two-yard touchdown by quarterback Karson Klauer to go up 12-6 at the beginning of the second quarter.

“We just tried to weather the storm the best we could,” said Aptos coach Bill Davidson. “It is hard to simulate how fast and how crisp you have to be coming out against a team like Hollister.”

It appeared special teams would be a factor in the game. Both teams missed their opening PAT, and the Balers failed on the two-point chance. But that aspect of the game didn’t come into play as the Mariners went on to score three touchdowns for 20 unanswered points.

The turning point in the game was when junior running back Francisco Aviles had to be taken out of the game with a broken leg that he suffered in the second quarter during an 8-yard run.

The Balers received an unsportsmanlike penalty on the play when one of the assistant coaches questioned the referees’ late whistle after three guys pushed Aviles back. However, the Mariners were not able to score on that play.

On the play before, Aptos had just taken a 13-12 lead after Cliff Nelson came up with a 52-yard touchdown run. Nelson tried to rush through the middle. He was greeted by a sea of red, so he bounced to the left and was off.

Aptos quarterback Bryan Van Meter, who was 9 for 13 for 87 yards, found Chris Humpries in the back of the end zone to make it 19-12 with under a minute left before halftime.

“Their quarterback bought a lot of time,” Cameron said. “He consistently broke containment. Every time we turned around, they were hitting the big plays.”

Ortega’s kick return was only the start of his big day. In the third quarter, he scored the Mariners’ final touchdown – a 15-yard pass from Bryan Van Meter that made the score 26-12.

Ortega picked off a couple desperation passes by Klauer as the Balers were trying to make something happen in the second half. San Benito also had a couple fumbles in the game as well.

“We just went back to base defense,” said Davidson about his team’s strong second half. “We didn’t want to try to do anything we couldn’t do.”

Only one of the turnovers led directly to points. That one came at the start of the the second half on Ortega’s catch.

“We went with the option veer,” Cameron said. “Their kid made that play happen. It was a great play by him.”

The Balers won the opening coin toss and elected to kick, giving the defense, which has been so strong this year, the chance to shine. But that strategy didn’t pay off because the Mariners returned the kickoff for a score. And when the Balers received the ball in the second half, the couldn’t hold on to it.

The last thing the Balers wanted to do after being down 19-12 at the half was to give away a quick touchdown, but that was exactly what they did.

Even still, the Baler defense came up with some timely stops in the second half to remain in the game and to keep the Mariners out of the end zone for most of the half.

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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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