HOLLISTER — The real fireworks were on the field for Aptos High rather than in the air during Friday night’s homecoming at San Benito High.

The Mariners thumped the Haybalers 35-12 in a hard-hitting but ultimately lopsided Monterey Bay League Gabilan division victory to stay undefeated in league play.

The halftime fireworks show was meant to celebrate San Benito’s (5-3, 3-2) homecoming but as the smoke still lingered in the air, Aptos’ (5-2, 4-0) all-around weapon Blake Wheeler took the opening kickoff to the house for a 90-yard touchdown to give the Mariners a 21-12 lead.

They never looked back en route to their 36th straight league victory, dating back to 2011.

“The kickoff return was definitely a momentum changer,” Wheeler said. “We knew coming into this game it was going to be a challenge, they love to hit. In the first half, we weren’t as ready for it, but in the second half we proved that we wanted it more.”

It was the Wheeler show for the Mariners. Shortly before the half, junior quarterback Hunter Matys connected with Wheeler for a 40-yard touchdown strike, a feat they repeated later when the pair struck again for a 36-yard touchdown pass.

The Mariners operated like a well-oiled machine, which ran with authority, passed sparingly but with great effect, committed no turnovers on offense and collected two on defense, including a Wheeler interception in the second quarter. 

“I knew we in for a tough battle because they lost last week and they were not happy about that,” said Aptos head coach Randy Blankenship. “They have a rich tradition here and I had a hard time convincing our kids we were in for a fight. After halftime, they realized that.”

The league win over a tough Haybalers squad, blessed with a powerful running game and a hard-hitting defense, kept the Mariners perfect in their new league and positioned well as they prepare for their showdown with the Monte Vista Christian Mustangs and the Salinas High Cowboys, who are 5-0 in the league. 

“They’re really looking forward to playing Monte Vista all year because Monte Vista kind of disrespected them on the internet,” Blankenship said. 

The Haybalers got on the board first when senior running back Joe DeMaggio punched in a 2-yard rushing touchdown.

Mariners junior running back Marcos Reyes followed up quickly with a short rushing touchdown to give Aptos a 7-6 lead.

Haybalers senior running back Jonny Gonzalez answered the score with a 74-yard rushing touchdown to put San Benito back on top. Gonzalez also busted a 50-yard rush early in the game.

“It was a tough week; I’m not going to lie,” said Reyes, who also scored another rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter. “Coach was very persistent on the little things. In the beginning, we weren’t wrapping them up, but in the second half we shut them down. It was a big step up.”

The tough week of practice may have been necessary to prepare for the hits that the Haybalers would lay. 

“It’s about mental preparation; just knowing that you’re going to get hit going into the game,” Reyes said. “I can take it. I just need to tell myself that I’m not tired and it works out. It feels good when I hit them; they don’t hit me.”

Previous articleWHS gives scoreboard much-needed refurbishing thanks to $15K Giant donation
Next articleCurry, Durant tossed in Warriors loss to Grizzlies


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here