CCS Football: Aptos stuns Palma, advances to 5th title game of decade

Aptos senior running back Marcos Reyes runs through the tackle of a Palma defender during Friday's CCS Open Division III semifinal at Rabobank Stadium in Salinas. — Tony Nunez/Register-Pajaronian

SALINAS — When it rains, it pours.

And in this case, it was a torrential downpour.

Marcos Reyes rushed for 212 yards and four touchdowns, Hunter Matys ran for a pair of scores and tossed another and the No. 5-seeded Aptos Mariners trounced the top-seeded Palma Chieftains, 49-6, to advance to the Central Coast Section Open Division III championship game.

In a rematch of the teams’ hotly contested Pacific Coast Athletic League Gabilan division contest in late October, Aptos (10-2) exacted sweet revenge over Palma (10-2) in stunning fashion.

With a steady rain covering Friday night’s action at Rabobank Stadium, the Mariners ran around and through the Chieftains on offense, and came within seconds of their first postseason shutout in program history on defense.

They scored touchdowns on seven of their nine possessions, and played the fourth quarter with a running clock.

“I’m speechless,” said Aptos head coach Randy Blankenship. “Total domination of a really good football team.”

Aptos blew a pair of second-half leads against Palma in its 40-35 stunner at Trevin Dilfer Field on Oct. 26, and dropped another heartbreaker the following week against Salinas at The Pit. The two losses landed the Mariners in a tie for third place in the PCAL-G behind co-champions Palma and Salinas.

Now, Aptos is the last team from the league left in the section playoffs — Salinas lost on Friday in the CCS Open D-I semifinals to Wilcox.

The Mariners will play in their fifth CCS championship game of the decade, and will try to win their fourth title of the Blankenship era and fifth overall.

Aptos will play the winner of Sacred Heart Prep and Sacred Heart Cathedral next week in the Open D-III final. The two private schools are set to square off in the semifinals on Saturday at 1 p.m. in Atherton.

Aptos said it was ready for all challengers.

“It don’t matter [who we play],” said Reyes, a senior. “We’re a train right now.”

And Palma was an unfortunate casualty caught in the path of a rejuvenated juggernaut of a squad, which just a week ago dropped a postseason program record 62 points on No. 4 Terra Nova in the quarterfinals.

For the second week in a row, Aptos produced three 100-yard rushers and topped the 500-yard-mark on the ground. Matys, a senior, wove through the Palma defense for 118 yards rushing and junior fullback Josh Powell crashed ahead for 110 yards.

Eight other players touched the ball for Aptos, which finished with 547 yards rushing.

“Knowing what they did to us at our house, as soon as we beat Terra Nova all of our heads were in Palma mode,” Matys said. “I think we had a great week of practice and we delivered.”

Palma entered Friday on a seven-game win streak, but was never able to find the offensive rhythm that produced 55 points in its CCS playoff opening win over No. 8 Pioneer on Nov. 9. 

Palma quarterback Grant Sergent, who shredded Aptos for 328 yards and five touchdowns during their first meeting, had just 97 yards through the air on 10-of-24 passing.

The senior signal caller was under duress for the majority of the night, as the Mariners cooked up a pass rush that was sorely lacking during their loss in Aptos.

Powell had 1 1/2 sacks and junior linebacker Vaughen Holland recorded a 1/2 sack along with three other stops in the backfield.

Palma had 329 yards of offense. Eighty-nine of those yards came on its final drive with Aptos’ second and third stringers in the game.

Junior running back Vinny Crivello prevented the shutout with a 28-yard scoring rush on the final play.

“The grit and determination of this whole group impressed me,” Matys said.

Matys paired his stellar day on the ground with an efficient performance through the air, completing 3-of-4 passes for 50 yards and a 26-yard touchdown pass to Shane Modena.

His 1-yard plunge into the end zone put Aptos up with 4:59 left in the first quarter, and his 38-yard scoring scamper two minutes later gave Aptos a two-score lead.

Reyes trotted into the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown during the final seconds of the first quarter, and his 14-yard sprint through a trio of defenders late in the second quarter started the rout.

The Matys-Modena scoring connection with 37 seconds left in the first half sent Aptos into the locker room with a 35-0 advantage, and Reyes added scoring runs of 4 and 73 yards in the third quarter for good measure.

“We silenced them,” Reyes said. “This is what should’ve happened the first time. That’s a great team, but we’re better. That’s what we tried to prove today.”

Palma had a pair of scoring opportunities in the first half, but fell short on both. Sergent was intercepted by junior cornerback Juziah Rivero at the 5-yard line, and his pass to junior receiver Micah Olivas on the final play before the break sailed over the latter's head and out of the end zone.

The Chieftains also turned it over on downs twice from inside the 5-yard line in the second half.

“They played through all the peaks we had,” Blankenship said. “We didn’t have many valleys.”

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