Khader Yasin described it as one of the best experiences he’s ever had on the football pitch and couldn’t have asked for a better way to end his pre-season career on the griddle.
The San Benito High senior played as an offensive guard for the winning Children’s Shopping Tour team in the 36th annual Central Coast All Star Game at Rabobank Stadium on Jan. 14. 19
The teams took on the names of the local charities they wanted to represent. Yasin said playing the game was one of his most fulfilling for a number of reasons.
“It was a great experience and one of the funniest moments I’ve ever had playing football,” he said. “It felt good to be out there with a lot of elite guys and it felt great to represent Hollister.”
Yasin had plenty of company in the game, which selects outstanding seniors from players preparing for schools in San Benito, Santa Cruz, Monterey and South Santa Clara counties. Other Haybalers playing alongside Yasin included safety/linebacker Mateo Reyes, defensive end/tight end Abraham Solorio, and center/defensive end AJ Flores.
Another Baler, Derek Sandoval, played linebacker for Tatum’s Treehouse coached by Steven Zenk of Salinas High. Sandoval was offered an opportunity to join the Children’s Shopping Tour squad but declined, according to Yasin.
“The other coach asked him if he wanted to be on our side, but Derek said no because he wanted to beat us,” Yasin said.
With Yasin playing on the offensive line and Sandoval playing as a linebacker, they had to clash during the game, and let’s just say Yasin – who weighs 245 pounds and outperforms Sandoval by at least 70 pounds – got the better end of the deal on a play-in the fourth quarter.
“I told Derek if I saw him I would hit him and he would put a clean shot at me too if he had one,” Yasin said. “(San Benito) coach (Bryan) Smith and coach (Chris) Cameron told him to watch out and I caught him.”
Yasin said he was blocking the zone and descended from his linemen to the second tier where the linebackers were positioned.
“Derek was right there and I got him,” Yasin said. “I kind of drove him to the ground and got a big pancake and we scored in the same game. I let him hear too. He’s one of my favorite teammates and it was probably my favorite block in the game for sure. We joked about it afterwards because we had a lot of fun. He played left and right so it was great. But afterwards I found a video of my blockage with him and already sent it to him.”
Yasin felt a tremendous sense of pride to represent Hollister football one last time with some of his closest friends. He played in front of Smith and other influential coaches he’d had since his youth team with the Hollister Rebels, including coaches Jim McShane, Frank Reyes and his uncle Ali Yasin.
“I wanted to make her proud,” Yasin said. “Coach Smith and Coach Cam and all my coaches at the Rebels who got me running growing up, I owe them a huge debt of gratitude. They all grew up with me and were the coaches that pushed me forward as a man and got me here.”
Yasin was undecided about continuing to play soccer after high school, but the All Star Game seemed to give him some clarity.
“I don’t think I can let go of football that easily,” he said. “I think I’ll play at community college and see what happens from there.”
Whatever happens, Yasin won’t soon forget the last time he played on the football field in high school.
“We really pushed hard and the coaches said not to take it lightly,” said Yasin. “We went there to win and not lose because coaches, friends and the Rebels’ little boys were watching us. Training was fun, meeting guys from other teams was great and it was just super exciting to play one last time. It was an honor to be part of this game.”
San Benito High teammates AJ Flores (54) and Khader Yasin block during the All-Star Game. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
Baler’s senior Mateo Reyes shares a moment with fellow players in the All-Star Game. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
The sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected] and (831) 886-0471, ext. 3958.