SAN FRANCISCO—Aptos High senior Caden Prichard stood on the sideline Friday night as he watched the seconds tick away in his final season.
With tears rolling down his cheeks, he gave every one of his teammates one last hug after the No. 3-seeded Mariners lost to No. 2 St. Ignatius in the Central Coast Section Division II semifinals Nov. 18.
Prichard also hugged and thanked the coaching staff before walking off the football field one last time in a Mariners uniform.
“We did put a lot of heart into it, it was a tough way to go out,” Prichard said. “We came into this game knowing it was going to be a fight.”
The Mariners’ offense was responsible for three turnovers including a critical fumble that Prichard lost midway through the second quarter.
“I bounced off the tackle, spun out of it and someone put a helmet on the ball, popped right out,” he said. “That’s on me. I made a mistake. It took me a while to shake it off but I bounced out of it. Unfortunately it was detrimental to the game but I can’t go back now.”
Prichard had 42 yards rushing on nine carries and three catches for 58 yards receiving, including a 30-yard touchdown reception to begin the third quarter.
The Wildcats scored just seven points off the turnovers but it was all they needed to secure the victory.
“I wish we could’ve done something different but when you get this far whoever plays the cleanest usually wins,” said Aptos coach Randy Blankenship.
St. Ignatius will play against West Catholic Athletic League rival No. 5 Bellarmine after a 21-17 win over top-seeded Wilcox on Friday night.
Sophomore quarterback Soren Hummel completed 16-of-21 pass attempts for 188 yards and two touchdown passes in the first quarter that gave the Wildcats a 14-7 lead.
Hummel spread the ball out to seven different receivers, especially junior Moe Barnum who finished with 53 receiving yards and three catches including a 20-yard touchdown.
Hummel also had help from sophomore running back Jarious Hogan, who finished with a game-high 107 yards on 15 carries and a pair of touchdowns.
“Our run game was amazing tonight and that kind of opened up everything,” Hummel said. “Being able to settle down into drives really gave us that upper hand tonight.”
Prichard said they planned well and knew exactly what the Wildcats were going to run.
However, the Mariners’ defense couldn’t figure out a solution to get off the field and a pair of turnovers by the offense in the first half didn’t help, as well.
“There were errors but stuff happens,” Prichard said. “It’s football and I’m going to miss that.”
St. Ignatius junior defensive back Kenji Nakashita recovered Prichard’s second quarter fumble in the end zone that put a potential game-tying drive to a halt.
Aptos quarterback Matt Hood also threw an interception just before halftime.
“We just have to not turn the ball over,” Blankenship said. “The kids fought so hard all year long. It’s just a shame we didn’t play our best in the first half.”
Aptos came storming out of the gates in the second half by putting together a 12-play, 73-yard drive.
It was capped off with a 30-yard touchdown reception from Hood to Prichard, which cut the deficit to 21-14 midway through the third.
Hood completed 8-of-18 pass attempts for 110 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
“We definitely had some momentum coming out of halftime,” Prichard said. “Our seniors stepped up and just kind of feeling the end coming, it’s a scary feeling. I think that made our players step up and give everything that we had.”
However, that was the last time the Mariners would see the end zone.
St. Ignatius responded with a well orchestrated drive of its own and extended the lead to 28-14 after Hogan’s second TD of the evening.
The turnover woes continued to plague the Mariners following a fumble by senior running back Dante Aranda, who lost the ball in the fourth quarter on the Wildcats’ 34-yard line.
Aptos’ defense managed to force St. Ignatius to punt the ball for the first time in the game.
But the Mariners failed to convert on a 4th-and-long situation, which saw their season come to an end.
On top of the three turnovers, Blankenship added they were also paper thin in terms of numbers on the field and the Mariners weren’t at full strength at defense.
“I’m sorry it ended this way but when they look back at their career they gotta know they put great effort in and can’t be prouder of them,” he said.
Aptos linebacker Collin Mennie thought they had the effort but in the end it was the Wildcats who played the better game.
“I think in the first half on defense we weren’t quite as physical enough, and those turnovers didn’t help,” he said. “I think it was just the physicality in the first half on defense. I thought the offense was doing good, it was just we had a few turnovers.”
Aptos set some lofty goals at the beginning of the year including a run for this year’s Pacific Coast Athletic League Gabilan Division championship.
The Mariners earned a share of the crown in a three-way tie with Palma and Salinas high schools. It was the first Gabilan Division title for Blankenship and the program.
Prichard said despite coming up one game short of reaching the CCS final he’s glad they were able to have the kind of ride they had this season.
“I love all my boys here, I’m going to miss every one of them,” Prichard said. “It’s just a sad day tonight but we had a hell of a season. I’m glad that it went the way it did.”