The Aptos High Mariners have had a whole week to prepare for their Monterey Bay League Gabilan division debut against the Palma High Chieftains and they without a doubt needed the extra time to sort out their shortcomings over the first three weeks of the season.

Aptos is 1-2 overall and was shutout by Placer High for the first time since 2010 before entering their bye week.

The good news? Under head coach Randy Blankenship, Aptos has never lost following a bye week.

Of course, the challenge will be much bigger on Friday night than the last seven years.

Palma is also 1-2 on the season but the Chieftains, Central Coast Section Division III finalists last season, are fresh off a 29-14 non-league win over Menlo School in which they led 22-6 late in the fourth quarter.

Aptos has never beaten Palma. The Mariners have lost all five meetings against the Chieftains, including last year’s 38-20 preseason defeat. This year, however, the meeting between the two section powers will mean a little more.

Aptos won the now-defunct Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League six years in a row before moving leagues in the offseason, while Palma has captured the MBL-G title each of the last five years.

On defense, the Mariners will have to hope they can contain sophomore running back Anthony Villegas, who ran for 161 yards and two scores on 27 carries last week.

Offensively, Aptos needs to reinvigorate a rushing attack that fell silent against the Hillmen.
Here’s a look at the rest of the action happening this weekend:

• Watsonville High vs. North Monterey County High, Friday at 7:30 p.m. — Both Watsonville High and North Monterey County High will be looking to bounce back from disappointing losses on Friday night at Emmett M. Geiser Field in the teams’ league opener.

Coached by Ron Myers, Watsonville (3-1) last week had its perfect start to the season dashed by Irvington High in a 14-0 loss. The Wildcatz’s run-heavy offense never found its rhythm and finished with just 56 yards on the ground.

Coached by Sean Gomes, N.M.C. (1-3), meanwhile, went to Carmel High and was shutout for the second time this season, falling 40-0 to the Padres. The Condors’ offense turned it over four times and their defense allowed 389 yards in the loss.

The two teams’ records speak volumes of their season to this point. Even with the last week’s loss, Watsonville is off to its best start since 2009, a year in which they last won a league championship and made it to the CCS playoffs.

N.M.C., however, is under .500 heading in MBL-Pacific division action for the third season in row. A rough start has not stopped the Condors from competing in league over the last three seasons but it nonetheless makes them the underdogs heading into Friday’s matchup.

Watsonville beat N.M.C. last season but the Condors have owned the recent series over the Wildcatz, beating them in nine of their last 12 meetings.

• Pajaro Valley High at Christopher High, Friday at 7:30 p.m. — The Pajaro Valley High Grizzlies will have their hands full on Friday night in Gilroy against the Christopher High Cougars in both teams’ MBL-Pacific division opener.

The Grizzlies (1-3) finally found the win column last week in a dominant 30-0 win over Lynbrook High but the Cougars (4-0) will be a much tougher opponent.

Coached by Tim Pierleoni, Christopher has impressed mightily in the preseason, beating Live Oak High and Camel High and scoring 34 points or more in all four its wins.

Coached by Kevin Cordova, P.V. has not looked as impressive over its non-league slate. The Grizzlies have struggled with injuries and last week’s victory was the first time they’ve scored 30 or more points this season.

The Grizzlies will have to hope they can contain Christopher junior quarterback Ben Sanford, who has thrown for 808 yards and 10 scores while completing 64 percent of his passes, and his multitude of receivers or things could get ugly fast.

P.V. will look to junior running back Mauricio Suarez, who ran for 209 yards and two touchdowns against Lynbrook, to continue his tough running this week.

• St. Francis High vs Marina High, Saturday at 2 p.m. — St. Francis High will make its Mission Trail Athletic League Coastal division debut this week against Marina High.

The Sharks (3-1) will try to continue their offensive showcase from last week in Saturday afternoon’s game, which will serve as the team’s homecoming. St. Francis capped off its preseason with 48-7 win over Pacific Grove High. Senior quarterback Derric Estrada-Haro rebounded from a tough game against La Salle of Milwaukie, Oregon a week prior with a three touchdown performance.

Coached by John Asuman, St. Francis will look for more of the same from him and its stout running game, which amassed 230 yards last week, led by juniors Abel Martinez, Devon McLeod, Aaron Soto and Andy O’Rourke.

Coached by Vernon Calhoun, Marina (1-2) has not found the same success as St. Francis. The Mariners are coming off back-to-back losses to N.M.C. and Monterey High.

This week’s meeting will mark the first time the two teams have played since 2015. St. Francis won that game, 19-14, and holds a 3-0 edge in the all-time series.

• Monte Vista Christian at North Salinas High (at Rabobank Stadium), Saturday at 3:30 p.m. — The Monte Vista Christian Mustangs will have a chance to not only bounce back from their non-league loss to the Scotts Valley High Falcons from two weeks ago but also start their MBL-Gabilan division season with a win.

Coached by Bruce Dini, M.V.C. (3-1) was off on a bye last week and had a chance to heal up and prepare for the pass-happy North Salinas High Vikings.

Coached by Darren Spence, North Salinas (1-2) is fresh off a dissapointing 29-22 loss to Alisal High in which a trio of interceptions sunk their chances of notching back-to-back wins.

The fact that the Vikings are intent on passing the ball is a good thing for M.V.C., which prides itself on its pass defense. It will be a busy day for defensive backs Nick Arroyo, Garret Laine, Scott Tinsley and  and Julian Mendoza.

Saturday’s meeting will be the second consecutive year the two have met. M.V.C. won last year’s game, 48-35.

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