SALINAS—The Aptos High football team came into Friday night’s game against Salinas High with plenty of momentum and confidence after last week’s thrilling victory over Palma High in the teams’ league opener.
But, there were no second-half miracles against the Cowboys. The Mariners were soundly defeated, 42-14, in Pacific Coast Athletic League Gabilan Division play at The Pit at Salinas High School.
With the loss, Aptos dropped to 1-1 in league play and now holds a 3-1 overall record. Coach Randy Blankenship will have to wait until next week to try to pick up the victory as he continues to sit with 298 career wins.
“I thanked them for their efforts and commitment,” he said. “Sometimes you lose games and tonight we got beat.”
Nick Forbes was 9-of-15 for 118 yards passing and a touchdown, a 45-yard strike to receiver Rio Cruz just before halftime. That was the last time the Mariners saw the end zone.
“It seemed like they just dominated us the whole game,” Forbes said. “We put in a good game plan, we worked hard but it just happens, honestly. That’s just life, it just happens.”
Aptos had to run through the gauntlet in the first three weeks of the season by going up against Mills High of Millbrae, Campolindo High of Morga and Palma.
Forbes said they fought hard and felt like they never gave up on Friday. But he also mentioned that it’s been a tough start to the season, so far.
“No excuses, that’s just a really good football team,” he said. “It just happens sometimes, it’s just football.”
Forbes was sacked five times—three by linebacker Aidan Flynn and two by Jacob Vega—and the Mariners were held to 282 total yards on offense. Senior running back Seamus Carey finished with a team-high 74 yards rushing on 12 carries. Aptos totaled 164 yards on the ground.
Junior running back Caden Prichard got things started in the second quarter for the Mariners. He capped off a 12-play, 63-yard drive with a touchdown from 6 yards out that tied things up at 7-all.
Prichard along with Carey, Lawrence Ingram and Kale Lampman continued to attack with their normally potent rushing game, but the Cowboys defense was there to bottle it up for most of the evening.
Salinas coach Steve Zenk said the advantage was in the size department—they were the bigger team upfront.
Conditioning also played a factor, as he mentioned they don’t have many players who have to play on both sides of the ball, which is also a bonus for them.
“We don’t play a lot of guys two-ways. You get 20 fresh guys, it definitely goes a lot farther,” he said. “It’s one of those things where you get 40 guys every game playing.”
Salinas junior quarterback Adam Shaffer completed 12 of his 20 pass attempts for 218 yards and three touchdowns.
Shaffer finished with 46 yards rushing on 10 carries, but he also fumbled twice.
Aptos senior safety Patrick Mackle recovered one of those fumbles in the third quarter.
The Mariners, who started the ensuing drive on their own 7 yard line, were hoping to capitalize on the turnover. But the Cowboys defensive line was wreaking havoc once again, as they sacked Forbes for a second time, holding them to a 3-and-out.
Shaffer redeemed himself after the fumble by picking up a 27-yard gain with his legs to set up Salinas on the Mariners’ 8 yard line. Two plays later senior running back Damian Morales scored a 3-yard touchdown on his lone carry of the night to put the Cowboys up 28-14.
Junior receiver Emmerson Cortez, who caught two of Shaffer’s touchdown passes, scored on a 57-yard strike in the third quarter that extended their lead to 35-14 with 54 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
“The game plan was actually to run the ball with J.J. [Acevedo] a lot and that actually went pretty well,” Shaffer said. “But we knew the short passing game would be pretty good. The lanes opened up for Emmerson [Cortez] a lot. It worked out.”
Cortez finished with 95 yards receiving on two receptions and senior receiver Lucas Cuda had six receptions for 75 yards along with a touchdown.
Salinas senior running back J.J. Acevedo finished with a game-high 112 yards rushing on 16 carries and a touchdown. Junior running back Nyziah Hunter sprinted for an 86-yard touchdown on his lone carry late in the fourth that capped off the scoring.
Shaffer said it felt good to pick up the win against a powerhouse team in the PCAL-Gabilan division and for them to improve to 2-0 in league play.
“It definitely boosted our confidence. Knowing that they beat Palma, it really showed how good of a team we are,” he said.
Zenk said aside from the win they also improved overall as a team, which is always what they strive for at the end of each game.
“For us, it’s always about making less mistakes and getting better every week,” he said. “I thought we got better at what we do this week, so Monday is about getting better.”
Blankenship said they had different adjustments and at the end of the game he kept both of his guards in the game. However, the Cowboys defense was too much and he praised Flynn for his outstanding play throughout the game.
“I’ll wait and see what the film says,” Blankenship said. “We just got beat by a better team.”
Correction: An earlier edition of this story was published stating that the final score was 42-17, which in incorrect. The correct final score was 42-14.
Salinas 42, Aptos 14
Up Next: Seaside High
When: Sept. 24, 7:30 p.m.
Palma 47, At Monte Vista Christian 14
Soledad 27, At North Monterey County 14
Pajaro Valley vs. Gilroy, 2 p.m.
Watsonville vs. North Salinas, 6:30 p.m.
St. Francis vs. Rancho San Juan at Cabrillo College, 7:30 p.m.