APTOS — The Darren Arbet era at Cabrillo College started off with more of the same.
The Seahawks' defense was excellent but their offense sputtered in a 22-9 season-opening loss to the visiting Yuba College 49ers on Saturday night in non-conference action at Carl Conelly Stadium in Aptos.
“We have a lot of potential but potential can get you beat and that’s what it did tonight,” said Arbet, the former head coach and general manager of the four-time Arena Football League-champion San Jose SaberCats who took over Cabrillo in January. “We have the guys to do what we want to do and win football games but we need to work to get everything together and I think they understand that.”
Cabrillo (0-1) turned it over five times but only trailed 9-6 at the half.
The Seahawks had a golden opportunity to take control of the game late in the third quarter after freshman linebacker Josh Eskew picked up a Yuba (2-0) fumble, sprinted for pay dirt and fell just three yards short of the end zone. But the offense was stuffed at the goal line on first and second down and freshman quarterback Evan Nelson couldn’t connect with freshman receiver Casey Hamilton on third down, forcing the Seahawks to settle for a field goal.
Freshman kicker Kai Haruyama nailed the 22-yard kick — one of his three successful boots on the night — with 3:33 left in the third to tie the game but the 49ers answered quickly with a 78-yard touchdown pass from Isaiah Rios to Ariyon Huff to retake the lead.
Rios and Huff hooked up again, this time for a 26-yard score, midway through the final stanza to all-but put the game out of reach.
Huff finished with 12 catches for 176 yards and started the scoring for Yuba in the first quarter by hauling in an 8-yard touchdown pass.
It was the lone time the Cabrillo defense cracked in what could have been a disastrous opening frame, which featured three straight Seahawks turnovers to start the game. Nelson lost a fumble and tossed two picks during the first 15 minutes. He had four interceptions on the night but the Seahawks' defense, led by a stingy and mean front seven, held tough.
“They did a good job. I thought they fought the whole game,” Arbet said of his defense. “I don’t think it was an effort thing on either side of the ball. You just can’t turnover the football. We’re young but I’m not making excuses. The other team played better and they beat us. We’re going to rebound. Guys understand that we have to come back and work.”
Cabrillo freshman running back Terrence Smith ran for 59 yards on 23 carries.
Sophomore receiver Chris Easter made three grabs for 75 yards and freshman wideout Entebbe Bates also had a trio of receptions for 51 yards.
Freshman defensive back Tyree Stricklen intercepted a pass.
There might not be a better pair of inside linebackers in the state than Cabrillo’s duo of sophomores Travis Schuhe and Trevor Rico. The former had 15 solo tackles, one sack and 2 1/2 tackles for loss, while the latter had six tackles, seven tackle assists, one sack and 1 1/5 tackles for loss. The two were a big reason why the 49ers only averaged 2.9 yards per rush and failed to score a rushing touchdown.
One of Nelson’s four interceptions was caused by contact to his throwing arm but the other three were mistakes, which Yuba took full advantage of. Nelson was replaced by sophomore Jeff Schweitzer during the third quarter but the backup did not attempt a pass. The 6-foot, 200-pound Schweitzer ran the ball twice on quarterback powers but injured his knee on his second carry and finished the night on crutches. Overall, Nelson was 7-of-25 for 135 yards and the four picks. Arbet, however, did not say Nelson had lost his starting job.
“We felt we could run the ball and Evan is not the guy that could pull it and run,” Arbet said. “We were trying to put Jeff in because he can run with the football. We were trying to take advantage of that.”
But the Seahawks will, at the very least, have to find a new backup quarterback. Four other QBs remain on the roster but only two of them dressed on Saturday night, Nick Martig and Josh Barron. Both are freshmen.
Saturday’s loss hurts the excitement around the program but, in the grand scheme of a 10-game season, it’s not a be-all-end-all. The Seahawks, aside from the loss of their backup quarterback, finished the night fairly healthy and their defense showed that it will be able to keep them in every game this season. The offense, however, needs to make some big jumps over the next few weeks.
Cabrillo hits the road to play at Foothill College on Sept. 16 at 7 p.m.
Foothill is 2-0 and is coming off a 24-14 win over Monterey Peninsula College on Saturday in which it rallied from down four in the second half.