WATSONVILLE — The rematch is set.
And it is shaping up to be a doozy.
Marcos Reyes, Hunter Matys and Josh Powell all rushed for more than 100 yards, the defense recorded four takeaways and No. 5 Aptos rolled into the Central Coast Section Open Division III semifinals with a 62-37 win over No. 4 Terra Nova on Saturday night.
The Mariners’ (9-2) next opponent: top-seeded Palma, a team that handed them their first loss of the season and halted their hopes of a Pacific Coast Athletic League Gabilan division title.
“If the kids aren’t motivated now, nothing is going to get it,” said Aptos head coach Randy Blankenship. “They felt like they screwed up the last Palma game.”
Aptos blew a pair of second-half leads in its heartbreaking 40-35 loss against the Chieftains (10-1), who dismantled No. 8 Pioneer in the quarterfinal round on Nov. 9 for their seventh straight win.
The Mariners lost another heartbreaker to Salinas the following week to finish tied for third in the PCAL-G with San Benito.
Capturing the program’s fourth CCS title of the decade would be a nice way to make up for the failings of the regular season.
The two are set to meet on Friday at Rabobank Stadium in Salinas at 7 p.m.
“Our whole defense needs to step up,” said Reyes, a senior.
Reyes rushed for 172 yards and two touchdowns on 19 touches. He also returned a fumble 50 yards for a score on defense to put Aptos up 21-0 during the early moments of the second quarter.
The Mariners piled on from there.
They led 35-14 at the half, and held a 34-point advantage late in the third en route to the highest postseason scoring output in program history.
They finished with 588 yards on the ground, as 10 players touched the ball and five scored touchdowns in the blowout win over Terra Nova (8-3), which ousted Aptos from the postseason last year.
“Getting 62 points is hard,” said Matys, a senior quarterback. “It’s all around credit, for everybody.”
Aptos and Terra Nova were originally set to play on Nov. 9 in Pacifica, but were rescheduled four times over the course of a week because of poor air quality stemming from the Camp Fire near Chico.
Saturday night’s game at Emmett M. Geiser Field was one of 15 CCS contests that were pushed a full week and relocated to neutral sites across the southern portion of the section.
Senior quarterback Jared Julian said the Tigers had a hectic — almost non-existent — week of practice because of the poor air quality in the coastal city just south of San Francisco.
“We weren’t able to practice all week, we had to practice in the gym,” Julian said. “We didn’t get to put on gear for eight days…but I can’t make excuses. We came [to play] and we lost. Not much to say. I love my guys. I love my team. I love my coaches. Respect to Aptos.”
Julian did his best to keep Terra Nova competitive by completing 16-of-26 passes for 322 yards and three touchdowns. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound QB also crashed ahead for 192 yards rushing and a touchdown.
His 67-yard scoring toss to junior receiver Nate Rios midway through the third quarter brought the Tigers within 20, but Reyes responded with a 20-yard touchdown run on the next series and Matys turned Julian’s fourth giveaway of the night into a 20-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Shane Modena.
Blankenship was somewhat disappointed with the defensive effort over the final two quarters, but gave credit to the players for showing up to play despite several distractions throughout the past two weeks.
“We were postponed [four] different times,” the coach said. “The kids showed a lot of resilience.”
Matys completed 3-of-9 passes for 47 yards and the touchdown.
He also flashed his wheels early, sprinting untouched for a 67-yard touchdown to give Aptos the initial lead.
Matys finished with 133 yards rushing on 16 carries.
Powell, too, showcased his speed in the open field, taking off for a 69-yard score after senior safety Fisher Johnson hauled in a touchdown-saving interception.
The junior fullback totaled 139 yards rushing on 16 carries.
Senior Bubba Gallardo scored a pair of short rushing touchdowns, and sophomore Andrew Manning also found the end zone on a 42-yard sprint down the visiting sideline during the fourth quarter.
“These last couple of weeks have been tough,” Reyes said. “Just going and going and going, but perfecting it, it paid off — it showed off.”
They’ll have to hope some of Saturday's brilliance can roll over to next week’s meeting with red-hot Palma and senior quarterback Grant Sergent, who last time shredded the Mariners’ secondary for 328 yards and five touchdowns.
“I know Palma had to watch tonight and just smile because they've got a quarterback that's a lot more accurate than this guy,” Blankenship said. “One good thing is, he doesn’t run like this guy…We’ve got our work cut out for us."