In their final game of the season on Nov. 4, the San Benito High Junior Varsity football team scored an effortless 41-6 victory over Seaside High, a satisfying end to a year that was more about rebuilding the team than it was about dominating.
While their six wins and four losses did not match the varsity’s 8-1 record, some of the players distinguished themselves enough to be brought up to join the varsity team at the upcoming Central Coast Conference playoffs.
“The high point of the season for me is just watching the kids keep getting better,” said head coach Kevin Medeiros. “We’ve had some good games and some down games, but I have been impressed with how they have come out to play.”
Denied a season last year, with this year’s JV roster drawn from 2020-2021’s hybrid freshman-sophomore team, but they started the 2021-2022 season strong with back-to-back 41-0 wins against Santa Teresa and Wilcox.
“The Wilcox game stands out to me,” said Medeiros. “We had never beaten them before, and that’s when I knew I had a good team. Doing what we did against Wilcox was the best feeling ever.”
An away game against Christopher netted them their first loss, a strange 0-2 game where both sides struggled for traction. They came back with a strong 39-0 against Alisal and a 13-8 squeaker against Everett Alverez before being pounded by Salinas 42-6 and fizzling out against Palma in a 20-14 game.
The last three scheduled games began on Oct. 22, 2021 with the JV alone representing San Benito against Aptos after COVID concerns canceled the varsity game. The 28-7 loss was not unexpected—both the JV and varsity teams fared poorly in the past against the school.
“We played a very prepared team,” said assistant coach Marty Martinez. “We needed to execute a lot better than we did, and it showed.”
There was frustration among the players that night when they could not move forward after scoring their single touchdown in the second quarter.
“All of us made simple mistakes,” said player Robert Holsten after the game. “The quarterback made some bad throws, the wide receiver wasn’t blocking, the running backs weren’t reading the right way. We need to practice and to reestablish ourselves by working extra hard.”
That work paid off against Monte Vista Christian on Oct. 29 in the first few minutes of the next game. The Mustangs managed only a 26 yard gain on their opening drive before having their fourth-down punt blocked. With the Balers in possession just yards from the goal line, Brayden Watkins scored a touchdown on the first play, less than two minutes of game time.
A few plays later, a fumble recovered by Elijah Huerta and returned for a touchdown quickly followed by a second touchdown run by Watkins, leaving the score 21-0 at the end of the first quarter.
An interception by Isias Moran in the third play of the second quarter gave them a fourth touchdown, followed quickly by touchdowns by Drake Velador and Holsten. At halftime, the Balers led 42-0, which turned out to be the final score.
“This team, when things go right, is unbeatable,” said Watkins. “Everybody was ready and locked in from the moment we got here. The linemen were opening up a bunch of holes, and our defense was phenomenal.”
The pattern set by the Monte Vista game held in the final contest with a 41-6 win over Seaside on Nov. 4. Receiving the kickoff, a quick four-play drive by the Balers resulted in a touchdown by Watkins, starting the game with a 6-0 score. The Vikings gained a mere three yards in the next series of plays, and with San Benito back in possession of the ball, the Balers scored again with a touchdown pass to Huerta. A successful conversion with a run by Daymien Valencia brought the score to 14-0.
Before the end of the quarter, a pass to Holsten resulted in a third touchdown. With the extra point blocked, the second quarter began with a 20-0 score. Handoffs to Valencia, Paul James Sunigam and Watkins from quarterback James Law saw three more touchdowns and a score at the half of 41-0.
In the third quarter, the Balers finally gave up some points after a successful Viking 51-yard drive scored a touchdown. However, the Balers blocked the kick, and with a quarter left to play, they already had their final score, 41-6, and their final victory, for a 6-4 season.
“We finished strong and everything connected,” Valencia said. “In the middle of the season, we fell off a little bit. We lost some games and we could have done better, but I am happy with how we did and proud of our team.”
While most of the team will have to wait until next year’s varsity tryouts before playing again, 12 members of the JV team are going to be joining the varsity on Nov. 12 for the upcoming playoff game against Burlingame.
“These JV football players will come up and start learning the Varsity way,” said Varsity head coach Bryan Smith. “I have asked them to compete to the best of their abilities.”
And after seeing the heart, skill and talent they showed on the field this year, they seem more than ready for the challenge.
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