Aptos High principal Casey O'Brian presents the CCS runner-up trophy to the captains of the Aptos High football team after Saturday's game at Independence High in San Jose. (Glenn Cravens/Register-Pajaronian)
SAN JOSE — The final Aptos High football huddle on Saturday was bigger than previous ones. The players were on one knee as they listened to coach Randy Blankenship and the rest of the coaching staff give words of reflection on their 2012 season.
Behind the players were dozens of parents, friends and siblings, all who made the trek to Independence High to watch the Mariners attempt to do something it hadn’t since 2003 — play in a Central Coast Section championship game. Unfortunately for the Mariners, Valley Christian High proved to be too much.
The Warriors rolled early, led from start to finish, and disposed of Aptos 51-20 to win the Central Coast Section Division III championship.
After receiving words from the coaches, the players lined up along the goal line on the west side of the field. One by one, players hugged and hi-fived teammates, thanking each other for a memorable season. There were some smiles but many wet eyes.
Blankenship was blunt after the game as he capsulated the season he and the Mariners had.
“Losing always sucks,” Blankenship said. “The kids worked their tails off and deserved better. But the sun’s going to rise tomorrow. We’re undefeated league champs two years in a row, and we made a great run in the playoffs.”
Running back Elijah Marta had 141 yards rushing and one touchdown, Brodie Bennet had a rushing touchdown, and Alex Joh hooked up with Alec Bonsall for a first-half-ending touchdown for the Mariners (10-3), which saw its 10-game winning streak come to an end.
Aptos got on the board with 9:16 to go in the second quarter when Bennett ran 12 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown, cutting the team’s deficit to 20-7.
Seeking some momentum in the third quarter, the Mariners stopped Valley Christian’s opening drive of the second half. They then turned in a 13-play, 91-yard touchdown drive that took off five minutes of the third quarter. Marta capped the drive with a three-yard touchdown run into the end zone, cutting Aptos’ deficit to 34-20 with 4:22 to play in the third.
The Mariners, who rallied from a 13-point hole last week against Monterey, suddenly had that feeling it was going to pull off yet another spectacular victory. However, Marta’s touchdown ended up being the final Mariners score this season.
“Mistakes. We made some mistakes, but I won’t let that get me down,” Marta said. “Just tried to keep going.”
It ended up being a banner season for not only Valley Christian – it won its third CCS fall team championship – but the whole West Catholic Athletic League. The league brought home four of the five CCS football championships this season.
Aptos was back in the title bout for the first time since 2003, when it won it all. With hundreds of fans in attendance, the Mariners tried their best to stop the Valley Christian offense.
The Warriors showed right away that it had their own plans, and they were sticking to them. On the third play of the game, running back Kirk Johnson got the ball from quarterback Jay MacIntyre, broke a tackle in the backfield and ran down the right sideline 69 yards for a touchdown. One hundred seconds had come off the clock and Valley Christian had a 7-0 lead.
Aptos tried to answer and had its rapid-fire offense going. But it was stopped by itself. The Mariners went from their own 22-yard line to Valley Christian’s 40-yard line before a fumble did them in.
Valley Christian took advantage. It didn’t have a knockout play. Instead, it went 58 yards on 13 plays for its second touchdown. MacIntyre found Bryce Novak on third down for a 14-yard touchdown pass, giving Valley Christian a 14-0 lead.
It was 20-0 after the first play of the second quarter. MacIntyre had all day to throw and finally found Ryan Severson for a 34-yard touchdown on a third down.
“You go back and look at how many times we had them third and nine and they made a big play,” Blankenship said. “There’s three or four. We’ve been getting off the field, but we didn’t get off the field tonight.”
Valley Christian coach Mike Machado said getting off to a fast start was key, considering all of the team’s narrow losses this season.
“We were able to start quickly with the big run early,” Machado said. “The defense did a good job getting some stops and punts.”
MacIntyre, the signal caller and the son of San Jose State University football coach Mike MacIntyre, also did damage on the defensive end.
Although it was 37-20 at the start of the fourth quarter, Aptos had the momentum even though it allowed a field goal to Valley Christian. The Mariners were marching with a fast pace. On a fourth down at the Aptos 41-yard line, Marta barreled forward for what seemed to be the first down. All of a sudden, MacIntyre emerged from a pile of players with the football and ran it back 45 yards for a touchdown, giving Valley Christian a 44-20 lead.
Aptos didn’t back down, going from its own 31-yard line to Valley Christian’s 8-yard line with about four minutes to go in the game. MacIntyre emerged again, diving in the end zone to intercept a pass and prevent Aptos from scoring.
Valley Christian got the ball to end the game and took a couple of knees inches from the end zone. The celebration was soon on.
The Warriors, playing in their ninth championship game, won their fifth CCS title. They ended the season 7-6, just the second time all season it had a winning record.
Coach Mike Machado said watching Bellarmine and St. Ignatius, fellow WCAL neighbors, play for the CCS Open Division title 24 hours earlier left him and his team motivated to win the championship. Although it had six losses, the team was within a touchdown in five.
Denied an opportunity to play in the Open Division, the Warriors made the most of their run in Division III.
Machado praised Aptos for not only getting to the finals, but also putting up a fight.
“I watched them against Monterey, and I knew they were never going to quit,” Machado said. “But these 70 guys over here aren’t going to quit either.”
Marta said he would remember all of the good times he and his teammates shared throughout the season.
“We had a lot of memories throughout the season,” he said.
Blankenship said he would remember the team’s journey and how they overcame themselves and opponents repeatedly.
“We weren’t supposed to beat Saratoga, and we weren’t supposed to beat Monterey, and we weren’t supposed to win league,” Blankenship said. “This (loss) doesn’t lessen any of my pride I have for them. ... I’m going to ask them right now, if they knew the outcome, would they do it again? And I bet they would.”
For the complete article see the 12-04-2012 issue.
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