Sports & Recreation

Baler football begins Aug. 27 against Santa Teresa

Free from COVID restrictions, coach Bryan Smith looks forward to a full season.

Last season, the pandemic forced a truncated practice schedule on San Benito High School’s football team followed by a shortened four-game season that ended with a two-win, two-loss record. This season, the coaches and team are looking forward to a full 10-game schedule with their opener taking place at Santa Teresa High School in San Jose on Aug. 27.

“I think we are going to do just fine,” said quarterback Tyler Pacheco, 17. “We have been practicing the whole time since the last game. I am a year older and I feel more comfortable in my spot. Everyone is really psyched and ready to go full speed this season.

That last game, their first win against Palma High School in six years, was played on April 16, giving the team less time to practice for this back-to-normal season.

“Last year we had the whole COVID thing and it seems this year everything has gone faster,” said linebacker Derek Sandoval, 17. “But we have had a lot more time together as a team and we have been able to bond a lot and get closer because of all the hardships we went through last year.” 

There are still a few signs of social distancing. Masks, for example, are required in the locker rooms. But the athletes have been able to resume their full training, including being able to work out in the weight room.

“We have been able to go full contact and do things like use strike bags without having to wash them down constantly,” said head coach Bryan Smith. “It has been great for us. But even though we started May 10 in the weight room, we are still way behind in terms of this team and we are working to re-establish the culture we had before COVID.”

This season, 72 athletes tried out for the team with 61 players making the final lineup. Usually, the final team would number in the 90s, but the lack of a real season last year held participation down.

“The sophomore group was put at a disadvantage last year because of the virus,” Smith said. “We put together a freshman-sophomore team last year and some of those guys are juniors now. I think that we did not see the numbers we usually would have gotten from that class reflected in the numbers this year.”

Despite the lower number of varsity players, San Benito High will field a full freshman team and a junior varsity team this year. 

“The lower numbers for those teams are back up,” Smith said. “That feels good. I am content with the 61 on our varsity team—there are high schools out there with just 25 or 30 players.”

You might expect some lingering swagger from the team as a result of their landmark 34-30 victory against Palma, particularly since it happened only 19 weeks ago, but Smith says there has been no time for the team to rest on its laurels.

“It was a great game and it meant a lot to our program,” he said, “but we are really focused on this season. We have new players in new positions and so you have to go back to the drawing board. I want to see us be a better football team: better execution offensively and better tackling on defense. I want to see us swarm to the defense and prove we are a really good tackling team.” 

Pacheco is already optimistic about the outcome of the first game this season.

“We hope to get a good start by going 1-0 this week and then go from there,” he said. “We beat them two years ago when we played them and we absolutely expect to beat them again.”

Sandoval, who is also graduating this year, is a little more circumspect.

“In this first game, I hope we can come together and build the chemistry we need,” he said. “We have been working hard and everybody on the team has their own little body aches. But we have some talent and we are hungry. We want to go out there and make our parents proud of us and make Hollister proud of us. I am going to do my part.”


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Robert Eliason

I got my start as a photographer when my dad stuck a camera in my hand on the evening of my First Grade Open House. He taught me to observe, empathize, then finally compose the shot.  The editors at BenitoLink approached me as a photographer by have since encouraged me to write stories about things that interest me, turning me into a reporter as well.  BenitoLink is a great creative family that cares deeply about the San Benito community and I have been pleased to be a part of it.