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November 26, 2022

Mariners, Sharks earn trips to CCS playoffs | High school football

Aptos to host Christopher, St. Francis will play at Santa Teresa

The Central Coast Section football playoff brackets are in order and a pair of local schools will represent the area in Friday’s upcoming quarterfinals.

Aptos High—tri co-champion of the Pacific Coast Athletic League’s Gabilan Division—and Cypress Division runner-up St. Francis both will extend their season for at least one more week.

The Mariners earned the No. 3 seed in the Division II bracket and will host No. 6 Christopher High, while the Sharks earned the No. 5 seed in the D-IV field and will play at No. 4 Santa Teresa. Both games are slated for Friday at 7pm.

Below is a quick rundown for the D-II and IV fields.

Division II

Aptos High’s Fabian Cortes returns a blocked punt for a touchdown against visiting Hollister during the teams’ PCAL Gabilan Division finale on Nov. 4. (Raul Ebio -The Pajaronian)

The Mariners won last week’s season finale against league rival Hollister High that helped them clinch a share of the PCAL’s Gabilan Division title.

Aptos coach Randy Blankenship said he knew they had to play real well in order to get a home playoff game, which they received with a victory over the Haybalers. 

“We’re looking forward to [the home playoff game],” Blankenship said. “And a good team from Gilroy, Christopher is coming into town.” 

The Cougars, who were members of the Gabilan Division last season, opted out of the PCAL for the Blossom Valley Athletic League. 

Like the Mariners (8-2, 5-1), the Cougars (9-1, 4-1) were tri co-champion of the Mt. Hamilton Division with Lincoln (9-1, 4-1) and Live Oak (8-2, 4-1) high schools. 

Aptos won a share of the PCAL’s Gabilan Division title along with Salinas (9-1, 5-1) and Palma (8-2, 5-1), which both earned spots in the D-I field.

Blankenship said the D-II field was a good place for them because of their smaller school enrollment compared to most teams in the section.

“We’re both tri [league] champions and I think we’re both happy to be in the playoffs and look forward to seeing how the kids want to play,” Blankenship said.

The longtime head coach mentioned that getting a home playoff game is a momentous thing for the players, especially knowing it could be their final game on home turf. 

Blankenship believes it was a reward after competing in a strong schedule and playing well this year.

The Mariners are 3-0 lifetime against the Cougars including last year’s 38-7 win in Gabilan Division play. 

But despite the familiarity, Blankenship said they still don’t have the advantage because Christopher also knows how Aptos likes to play.

“In the playoffs, kids either want to keep going and not put their pads away, or they’re tired because the season’s a grind,” Blankenship said.

Blankenship—who’s led the Mariners to four CCS titles—said the players are anxious to repeat last week’s dominant performance.

“I was very pleased with the way we played, especially on defense,” he said. 

If the Mariners are victorious, they’ll have to play the winner of Friday’s quarterfinal game between No. 2 St. Ignatius (4-6, 3-4)—West Catholic Athletic League fifth place finisher—and No. 7 Half Moon Bay (7-1, 3-2), runner-up of the Peninsula Athletic League’s Bay Division.

The other side of the bracket features No. 5 Bellarmine (4-6, 3-4)—which placed fourth in the WCAL—at No. 4 Menlo-Atherton (5-5, 3-2), third place finisher in the PAL’s Bay Division.

The winner of that game will square off against the winner of No. 8 Lincoln (9-1, 4-1)—co-champion of the BVAL’s Mt. Hamilton Division—and top-seeded Wilcox (9-1, 4-1)—runner-up in the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League’s De Anza Division. 

Division IV

Saint Francis’ Pedro Ibarra tries to elude Carlos Rodezno of Rancho San Juan during a football game in Watsonville on Saturday, October 15, 2022. (Raul Ebio – The Pajaronian)

The Sharks were edged by Soledad (9-1, 6-0) in last week’s 34-28 double overtime loss for the battle of the Pacific Coast Athletic League Cypress Division title.

The Aztecs—who earned the No. 7 seed in D-III—were awarded the automatic CCS playoff berth, which meant St. Francis had to apply for an at-large bid.

St. Francis coach John Ausman believes getting a playoff berth was deserving for the football team based on their successful season. 

After last week’s heartbreaking loss, Ausman said the players went through an emotional draining game that could’ve easily been their last. 

“It’s an awesome opportunity that I don’t think our young men will take for granted after Friday night knowing that they’re one of the 40 teams in CCS that get to continue playing,” he said. 

St. Francis was on the verge of finishing the season undefeated for the first time in the program’s history. 

However, a hungry Aztecs team came storming back to stun the Sharks en route to a league title and playoff berth. 

Ausman mentioned that the one loss is not going to define the type of season they had.

“The whole season got us to this point,” he said. “We’ll use that hard work, commitment and that sacrifice for your teammates to go into the new season and take advantage of the opportunities given to you.”

It’ll be the first meeting between St. Francis and Santa Teresa, which finished fourth in the BVAL’s Mt. Hamilton Division behind tri co-champions Lincoln, Christopher and Live Oak.

“They’re a good team, they play in a competitive ‘A’ league,” Ausman said. “We have our work cut out for us, but they deserve to be in the playoffs just as we do.”

Ausman said they want to embrace the pressure of going up against some of the best teams in the section and they feel as deserving as all the others.

“Let’s let it shake out and see what happens, and play our game,” he said. 

If the Sharks survive, they’ll play the winner of Friday night’s quarterfinals between No. 8 Overfelt (9-1, 5-0)—winners of the BVAL Santa Teresa Valley Division—and top-seeded Sequoia (9-1, 4-1), which placed second in SCVAL’s El Camino Division. 

No. 2 Mountain View (3-7, 1-4) will host No. 7 Homestead (4-6, 2-3)—which placed fifth and fourth, respectively, in the SCVAL’s De Anza Division.

On the other side of the bracket is No. 3 Branham (9-1,5-0)—champions of the BVAL’s Foothill Division—against No. 6 San Mateo (7-3, 5-0)— winners of the PAL’s Ocean Division.

Central Coast Section Football Playoffs

Division II: No. 3 Aptos vs. No. 6 Christopher

Division IV: No. 5 St. Francis at No. 4 Santa Teresa

When: Friday at 7pm

Admission: $10 for adults, $5 for students/seniors/children


Juan Reyes
A Watsonville native who has a passion for local sports and loves his community. A Watsonville High, Cabrillo College, San Jose State University and UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism alumnus, he primarily covers high school athletics, Cabrillo College athletics, various youth sports in the Pajaro Valley and the Santa Cruz Warriors. Juan is also a video game enthusiast, part-time chef (at home), explorer and a sports junkie. Coaches and athletic directors are encouraged to report scores HERE.


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