Aptos High is coming off a championship season after it captured its fourth Central Coast Section title since 2013. 

The Mariners defeated Sacred Heart Prep in last year’s CCS Division III title game after they failed  to win a CCS playoff game for the first time since 2011. 

Aptos (1,458 students) will be the second smallest public school in the Pacific Coast Athletic League’s Gabilan division, according to USNews.com

Pacific Coast Athletic League Gabilan Division newcomers Carmel High (870) will be the smallest of the seven public schools in the division.

The league also features Christopher High, Alvarez High, Gilroy High, Salinas High and San Benito High. Palma is the lone private school in the division.

Here’s a breakdown of this year’s Aptos football team:

  • Last year’s record: 11-3 (Central Coast Section Open Division III champion)
  • Last year’s league record: 5-2 (third in Pacific Coast Athletic League Gabilan division)
  • Last year’s MaxPreps state ranking: 79th
  • Coach: Randy Blankenship
  • Key losses: Marcos Reyes; he was named the PCAL-Gabilan Division Player of the Year and finished with more than a dozen school records at running back. He set season marks for rushing yards (1,933), points (218) and touchdowns (36). He also set career marks in rushing attempts (372), rushing yards (3,683), points (344) and touchdowns (57). On defense, he recorded more than 100 tackles last season; Hayden Mennie, who was a surprise star for the Mariners on the offensive line that quickly turned into one of their best overall linemen; Josh Sousa-Jimenez, another stud on the offensive line that helped anchor a run-heavy attack; Hunter Matys, a dual threat quarterback that got it done with his arm and legs. 
  • Key possible returners:  Josh Powell (Sr.), a perfect fit for the Mariners’ run-heavy attack, Powell ran for 801 yards and 11 touchdowns on 127 touches last season; Dre Gomez (Sr.), recorded five sacks and a pair of interceptions for the Mariners; Andrew Manning (Jr.), watch for this kid to have a breakout season after racking up 213 yards on 37 carries and two touchdowns along with a touchdown reception; Christian Mendoza (Jr.), will be a nice compliment in what’s expected to be a crowded backfield.  



Newport Harbor High

  • When: Aug. 30
  • Where: Trevin Dilfer Field
  • Last year’s MaxPreps state ranking: 420th
  • Last year’s overall record: 3-6-1
  • Last year’s league record: 0-5 (last in Sunset League of CIF Southern Section)
  • Coach: Peter Lofthouse
  • Notes: The Sailors finished last year with a  3-6-1 overall record, which was the second straight losing season for Newport Harbor…This is the first meeting between both teams…Sailors will have junior quarterback Cole Lavin, who completed 53 percent of his pass attempts (94-of-173) for 943 passing yards, four touchdowns and five interceptions last year. Leading receiver Aiden Goltz, who racked up 883 receiving yards on 66 receptions and three touchdowns, will be back.


Oakdale High

  • When: Sept. 6
  • Where: Trevin Dilfer Field
  • Last year’s MaxPreps state ranking: 236th
  • Last year’s overall record: 9-4 (Sac-Joaquin Division IV semifinalist)
  • Last year’s league record: 4-2 (third in Valley Oak League of Sac-Joaquin Section)
  • Coach: Trent Merzon
  • Notes: It’s the first meeting between the Mariners and Mustangs since 2012…Aptos is 0-2 lifetime against Oakdale…Mustangs have qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs in 14 of the past 15 seasons…Mustangs have won three Sac-Joaquin Section Division III titles and a CIF State 3-A title in 2016 when they were ranked 34th in the state. Cameron Snow (inside linebacker), Peyton Bradford (defensive lineman) and Jaiden Williams (safety/defensive back) were all named to the Valley Oak League First Team. 



Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep

  • When: Sept. 13
  • Where: Trevin Dilfer Field
  • Last year’s MaxPreps state ranking: 220th
  • Last year’s overall record: 6-6 
  • Last year’s league record: 3-4 (fourth in West Catholic League)
  • Coach: Barry McLaughlin
  • Notes: It’s the first time since 2000 both teams are meeting. The Mariners won then, 36-13…Aptos is 2-1 lifetime against SHC…Fightin’ Irish made it to the CCS Division III semifinals against Sacred Heart Prep, which played Aptos in the championship…Fightn’ Irish quarterback Cian Dowling completed 58 percent of his pass attempts (61-of-104) and recorded 670 passing yards with four touchdowns in six games…SHC did lose one of its star players in Anthony Heard, who racked up 944 rushing yards and eight touchdowns along with 356 receiving yards and three touchdowns through the air.   



San Benito High

  • When: Sept. 27
  • Where: San Benito High
  • Last year’s MaxPreps state rankings: 287th
  • Last year’s overall record: 6-5 (CCS Open Division I qualifier)
  • Last year’s league record: 5-2 (fourth in PCAL-Gabilan)
  • Coach: Bryan Smith
  • Notes: San Benito’s playoff appearance last season was the program’s 10th straight…The Mariners beat the Haybalers, 42-20, last season…The last time San Benito defeated Aptos was in 2006…Haybalers running back Juan De Leon racked up 495 rushing yards and five touchdowns, while Eric Green finished with 273 rushing yards and three touchdowns, will be back for their senior season.    



Carmel High

  • When: Oct. 5
  • Where: Carmel High
  • Last year’s MaxPreps state rankings: 247th
  • Last year’s overall record: 12-1 (CCS Division V runner-up)
  • Last year’s league record: 6-0 (PCAL-Mission division champion)
  • Coach: Golden Anderson
  • Notes: The last time both teams met was in 2005. Aptos won 15-7…It’ll be the first time the Mariners play a league game on a Saturday afternoon since 2016…The Padres won’t have their explosive receiver Rashaan Ward but Dakota Mornhinweg will take over as the go-to tailback…Carmel quarterback Kai Lee and wide receiver/tight end J.T. Byrne are also coming back.


Alvarez High

  • When: Oct. 11
  • Where: Trevin Dilfer Field
  • Last year’s MaxPreps state ranking: 565th
  • Last year’s overall record: 2-8 
  • Last year’s league record: 2-5 (sixth in PCAL-Gabilan)
  • Coach: David Bottom or Anthony Gonzalez
  • Notes: David Bottom is back as head coach after he stepped down in 2015 to become the head football coach at Vista High in San Diego County…Bottom led the Eagles to three straight trips to the CCS playoffs…Alavarez will be without the services of Jose Lomeli but still have a stacked group of running backs that includes seniors Braden Arriaga-Lopez and AJ Fuentes. The Eagles have struggled to compete in each of the last three seasons in an “A” division. They have a combined 6-23 record in the past three seasons…Aptos won last year’s meeting, 48-14.



Gilroy High

  • When: Oct. 18
  • Where: Gilroy High
  • Last year’s MaxPreps state rankings: 746th
  • Last year’s overall record: 1-9 
  • Last year’s league record: 0-7 (last in PCAL-Gabilan)
  • Coach: Jacob Newman
  • Notes: Jacob Newman is going into his second year as the skipper at Gilroy…The Mustangs will be without running back Joseph Barnes but a new crop of playmakers are expected to rise. Gilroy running back Richard de la Paz, quarterback Brendan Doyle and Zach Moulden, will come back…Aptos recorded five rushing touchdowns  in last year’s 49-0 win. 



Christopher High

  • When: Oct. 25
  • Where: Trevin Dilfer Field
  • Last year’s MaxPreps state rankings: 391st
  • Last year’s overall record: 5-6 (CCS Division II quarterfinalist)
  • Last year’s league record: 3-4 (fifth in PCAL-Gabilan)
  • Coach: Tim Pierleoni
  • Notes: The Cougars were on a four-game losing streak but finished off their season with back-to-back wins to get back into the CCS D-II playoffs…Christopher will be without star quarterback Ben Sanford, who finished with 2,053 passing yards, and top rusher Tyler Davis, who rushed for 894 yards…The Cougars will also be without top pass catcher Joseph Scirigione, who finished with 746 receiving yards and nine touchdowns …It’s the second meeting between the two teams with Aptos winning last year’s game, 54-7.



Palma High

  • When: Nov. 1
  • Where: Rabobank Stadium in Salinas
  • Last year’s MaxPreps state rankings: 156th
  • Last year’s overall record: 10-2 (CCS Open Division III semifinalist)
  • Last year’s league record: 6-1 (PCAL-Gabilan co-champion)
  • Coach: Jeff Carnazzo 
  • Notes: Aptos split the season series against Palma. The Mariners lost the regular season game but got some redemption in the CCS playoffs…Palma will be without running back Anthony Villegas and Gabilan Division Offensive Player of the Year quarterback Grant Sergent. Villegas ran for 1,445 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, while Sergent threw for 2,243 yards and 27 touchdowns to just two interceptions.



Salinas High

  • When: Nov. 8
  • Where: Trevin Dilfer Field
  • Last year’s MaxPreps state rankings: 137th
  • Last year’s overall record: 8-4 (CCS Open Division I semifinalist)
  • Last year’s league record: 6-1 (PCAL-Gabilan co-champion)
  • Coach: Steven Zenk
  • Notes: Cowboys will be without Gabilan Division First Team selections Carl Richardson as quarterback, Roderick Gaskins as receiver and Abel Garcia on the offensive line…Gaskins finished with 1,257 all-purpose yards — 853 receiving and 359 rushing — with 11 total touchdowns last season, while Richardson threw for 3,606 yards and 24 touchdowns to 13 interceptions…Aptos has lost two-straight against Salinas, including last year’s 28-24 loss at “The Pit”…The Mariners had beaten the Cowboys in three-straight seasons prior to the losing streak.


Editor’s Note: This entry is part 1 of 7 in a weekly series that will delve in each local high school football program’s schedule. Following alphabetical order, Monte Vista Christian’s breakdown will run in the August 2 edition of the Pajaronian.

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