Aptos High alum Zach Hewett will take over the Mariners' varsity football program after spending the past eight seasons as the JV head coach. (contributed)

The search for a new football head coach at Aptos High is over after the school announced Thursday that Zach Hewett will take over the program for the upcoming 2024 fall season. 

The 39-year-old Aptos alum was promoted from his role as JV head coach where he spent the past eight seasons. Hewett was also an assistant coach on the varsity team and in charge of the weight room program during that same time span.

“It’s wild, when I got into coaching, I started out as a defensive coach, that was kind of just my deal,” he said. “Then it became more and more of a thing that I want to be a head coach one day… 15 years later, here I am.”

Hewett replaces legendary coach Randy Blankenship, 70, who announced prior to the 2023 season he was stepping away from the sport for good, retiring after an illustrious 50-year coaching career. 

Blankenship won four Central Coast Section championships during his 14-year tenure at Aptos including three straight titles from 2013-15, and most recently in 2018. He recorded 300-plus victories and is one of the winningest coaches in California history.

Hewett beat out three other candidates in what Aptos athletic director Travis Fox called a good turnout during the application process. 

Fox said Hewett has fully ingrained himself on campus over the past 10 years as a football and track and field coach along with taking the role as the strength and conditioning guru.

Hewett currently sits as the head of the physical education department.  

“In many ways it’s kind of a natural fit for the program,” Fox said. 

Hewett becomes the second football head coach to get hired in Santa Cruz County after Watsonville High announced last week that Manny Contreras was named its new skipper.

“Zach Hewett combines humor and perseverance in his coaching,” Aptos principal Alison Hanks-Sloan said. “His commitment to our school, love for our community, and years of football experience are a perfect combination. We look forward to the next chapter of Aptos football with coach Hewett at the helm.”

Hewett said trying to compare himself to Blankenship will always be a losing battle, but the legendary coach was still an amazing presence and mentor to Hewett.

Hewett spent 200-plus days in eight seasons working with Blankenship. 

“It was one of the largest catalysts for growth for me as a coach and as a person that I could possibly have,” Hewett said. “I don’t want to compare myself to Randy because I’m my own person. I want to take what Randy has taught me, what I’ve learned from him, and see how it goes when we try to do it my way.”

Hewett’s first season as an assistant coach was at North Salem High School in Oregon in 2005 before returning to his alma mater as an assistant on the varsity team from 2007-10.

In 2011, he became the defensive coordinator at Gilroy High and then the running backs coach at Piedmont Hills the following year. 

Hewett was an assistant at Salinas High from 2013-14 and is now part of a coaching tree that was rooted by former head coach Steve Goodbody. 

Those who branched out include current Salinas head coach Steve Zenk, North Monterey County High head coach Juan Cuevas and Alisal High head coach Cesar Chaidez.  

Hewett started as a PE teacher at Aptos in 2015. He said in addition to returning home, he wanted to learn from Blankenship.

“I wanted to be ready in case I can be considered for the job when it did come open one day,” Hewett said.

Fox said he’s excited about the next chapter of the football program and moving on from a legacy chapter that Blankenship left behind. 

“I think it’s always special when you can have alumni come coach and especially one who has ingrained himself as a Mariner and lives the Mariner way every day here on campus,” Fox said. “He has a lot of community support behind him. There are a lot of community members who vouch for him.”

Hewett takes over an Aptos program that went 1-5 in Pacific Coast Athletic League Gabilan Division play and finished with a 2-8 overall record this past fall season.

He plans to keep the same offensive concepts of the Wing-T formation, which Blankenship brought with him when he arrived 14 years ago. 

“I like knowing that people hate getting ready for our offense,” he said. “I like knowing that the things that we do put a mental stress into people before the games even started.”

Aptos has already scheduled its preseason opponents starting with a trip to Sunnyvale to take on The Kings Academy, followed by a home game against Mitty High.

The Mariners renew the Black and Blue Bowl with a game at Watsonville High in Week 3 before closing out non-league action against Seaside High in Aptos.

“You play the game to see who can win and lose, but I’m honestly just really looking forward to the relationships and the process, watching the kids get better,” Hewett said.

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A Watsonville native who has a passion for local sports and loves his community. A Watsonville High, Cabrillo College, San Jose State University and UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism alumnus, he primarily covers high school athletics, Cabrillo College athletics, various youth sports in the Pajaro Valley and the Santa Cruz Warriors. Juan is also a video game enthusiast, part-time chef (at home), explorer and a sports junkie. Coaches and athletic directors are encouraged to report scores HERE.


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