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Three divisions of the Hollister Rebelsbon football team will face two opponents apiece on Nov. 12 at section finals at Rabobank Stadium in Salinas to fight for the chance to play in the Monterey Bay Youth Football League Super Bowl.
“We started off kind of slow,” said Rebels president Frank Casillas, “but we’ve just been gaining momentum. The teams are playing as well as they have all season, and we’re the only teams in the Monterey Bay League that qualified all three teams into the section finals.”
The Junior Peewees, ages seven through nine, have had a mostly uneven year, with a 5-4 record. Many of the players on this team have never played football before, according to Assistant Coach Armando Justo, or knew any of the fundamentals of the game.
“I have been watching them from the very beginning to now,” he said. They have become a brotherhood, and they have each other’s backs. It’s just wonderful to see these kids come out here every single day and bond with each other.”
Justo said that even though the team consists of very young players, they always come to the field focused and determined to play.
“They’re determined,” he said. “They’re always asking the coaches, ‘How do we get better?’ It surprises me how strong mentally and physically these kids are at their age that they can come out here and recognize. ‘Hey, I need to get better. What am I doing wrong? Can you teach me?’”
Saying it was very hard to spotlight just one or two players from a team that worked so hard to win, nonetheless, Justo said that he thought Julian Rocha and Reese Ashley were particularly strong this year.
“Ashley isn’t the biggest kid out there,” he said. “But let me tell you that when he runs that ball, it is like a train coming at you full force. And I love coaching Rocha—he’s very, very aggressive, and he gets better every single day. I think a lot of the guys try to compete with him because of how good he is.”
The Peewee team, with players from ages nine to 12, has racked up the best score this season and will go into the championship game with a 7-2 record.
“They are a young small team that is playing well above their heads,” said Athletic Director Jim McShane. “These guys have as much fight in them as any team we’ve ever had out here. Everybody’s gotten better, and nobody has quit.”
The Peewees will be playing the No. 2 seed, the Toro Bulls from Salinas, one of the two teams they were defeated by earlier in the season. And according to McShane, the players are looking forward to a little payback.
“It was the first game of the season,” he said, and some of our youth and inexperience kind of reared its ugly head. It was a 0-0 game at halftime and just a couple of mistakes in the second half did us in. So these guys are looking for redemption, and they’re ready and excited.”
McShane praised Sebastian Marquez and Levi Cardenas as team standouts.
“Sebastian is one of the smallest players in the league but one of the best players in the league,” he said. “He’s a standout running back and linebacker. He’s also a rodeo star, and he’s a very good player. Levi is our center and one of our captains. He’s a really great player, a great athlete, and a really good addition to the program.”
The Hollister Rebel Midgets, ages 11-14, will also be playing against the Toro Bulls, and Coach Tony Hernandez says he has high hopes for his team.
“It’s nice to kind of get these revenge game opportunities because we’ve done nothing but build this team up in the last 10 weeks,” he said. “We’ve gotten better and better each and every week, and I think our game plan is to beat this team by playing smash-mouth football. We are going to drag them into those deep waters and drown them.”
The Midgets have, according to Hernandez, the best offensive and defensive lines in the Monterey League in terms of size and athleticism. Their best game so far, he said, was a recent one against the Alisal Eagles.
We are on a winning streak, and we have taken out the top two teams already,” he said. “In the game against the Eagles, we put 50 on them, and all the coaches called me and asked for the film because they didn’t know how we did it.”
Hernandez mentioned three players, Cadence Smith, Kadrian Bonilla, and Braden Hernandez, as being the stars of his team.
“Braden probably touched the ball close to 30 times last game in that triple-overtime,” he said. “Bonilla is trying to win three Super Bowls—the one last year, this one coming up, and the one next year. And this is Smith’s first year on the team but I think his growth has been amazing.”
Braden said that his team had gotten off to a rough start, losing the first three out of four games, but he thinks they are back on track, particularly after the Alisal game.
“We beat them for our homecoming game,” he said. “It was just a great dominant team win. I am looking forward to the game that is coming up. We are going to play some good D and I don’t think their playmakers will be able to score against us.”
All three teams will be playing at Rabobank Stadium in Salinas on Nov. 12 for the section championships. The Junior Peewees will play the Alvarez Titans at 10 a.m., the Junior Peewees will play the Toro Bulls at 12 p.m., and the Midgets will play the Toro Bulls at 4 p.m.
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