APTOS — New year, new league, same old beatdown.

The Aptos High Mariners plucked the Templeton High Eagles, 58-12, at Trevin Dilfer Stadium, ushering in another year of title hopes, but only with bigger stakes as they enter the Monterey Bay League Gabilan Division.

The Mariners’ offensive line, led by seniors Alex Austen and Joseph Gutierrez-Lee, punched holes through the Eagles’ defense large enough to drive a Prius through and junior running back Marcos Reyes took full advantage en route to a banner day rushing and receiving. 

“Much credit to the offensive line, the holes were there,” said Reyes, who had two touchdowns rushing and one receiving. “I gotta give a shout out to Hunter (junior quarterback Hunter Matys) he’s playing with a bad back and he threw the ball the best he could.”

While the game turned out to be a blowout, the first quarter indicated what looked to be a barnburner. Dual-threat quarterback Morgan Scovell rushed for two touchdowns as the Mariners’ struggled to contain the economy sized Donovan McNabb in Eagles’ green and white. 

“It was a little shaky start, but our kids settled into it,” said longtime Aptos head coach Randy Blankenship. “Their quarterback did a really nice job.” 

Despite the play of Scovell, the Eagles’ defense was a sieve from the get go. On the opening drive of the season, sophomore fullback Josh Powell broke off a 40-yard rush and Reyes followed up with a 15-yard touchdown that set the pace.

What followed was a steady diet of chunks of rushing yards, served up in heaping handfuls by the Mariners’ hefty offensive line. Senior running back Will Murphy blew up for a 51-yard rushing touchdown and scored again later with a 14-yard visit to the end zone. 

“I’m feeling pretty good, we just finished all the blocks,” Austen said. “We just go for it every time.”

While the majority of the work was done on the ground, Matys and his receivers connected on a few noteworthy passes. With the game within striking distance Matys floated an easy pass to Reyes for a 21-yard touchdown. Later in the third quarter, senior Matthew Medina came down with a 32-yard pass with only inches to spare, staying in bounds on his tip toes. Matys later in the third quarter threw from beyond the right hash mark and found senior Blake Wheeler for a 15-yard touchdown on the left side of the end zone.

Given the results, both Reyes and Blankenship expect a tighter week of practice to come. 

“We didn’t have a real good practice on Monday or Thursday,” Blankenship said. “It was the first game so hey, a win is a win.” 

As the night drew near and the chill set in, the Eagles’ offense got cold and the Mariners’ defense clamped down. Junior cornerback Bubba Gallardo and senior Desmond Mendoza each collected fumbles, cooking the Eagles’ goose and ensuring an opening night victory. 

The SCCAL is dead and Aptos did its part to kill it last year. After winning the league for six straight years, the Mariners may have signed its death warrant after an 87-6 dismemberment of the Harbor High Pirates.

Within the MBL-Gabilan, Aptos must deal with perennial powerhouses like Palma High School and they are unlikely to be toppled with such ease. Gone are Joey Riccabona, Gavin Glaum, Jack Wolf and a host of others who leaped at the chance to compete at a higher level in the playoffs when they opted to compete in their section’s Open Division, only to be ousted 35-7 by California Interscholastic Federation NorCal champion, Valley Christian, of San Jose.

Up next the Mariners take on the Aragon High Dons at home on Friday. Aragon is a familiar foe, but Aptos hopes to clip the Dons once again. 

“We have a really athletic team coming in next week in Aragon,” Blankenship said. “We played them twice last year and they got everybody back.”

Templeton made the 134-mile drive to Aptos for the game and will be on the road again to face off against the Spartans of Strathmore High. While the Eagles will not face the Spartans at Thermopylae, they will again embark on a road trip of over 100-miles. 

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