High School football: Fourth quarter rally lifts Salinas to share of Gabilan title

High School football: Fourth quarter rally lifts Salinas to share of Gabilan title

High School Football: Aptos falls to Salinas in title game, preps for playoffs after spirited showing

SALINAS — There are several ways to get rid of hiccups, but Aptos High’s football team was unable to stop Salinas running back Roderick Gaskins from coming up big time.

Gaskins, a track standout who transferred from Seaside to Salinas last year, ran for touchdowns on three consecutive carries in the second half as the Cowboys rallied past Aptos in the fourth quarter and held on for a 28-24 victory to claim a share of the Pacific Coast Athletic League’s Gabilan Division crown in the teams’ regular-season finale Friday night at The Pit.

He scored on a 1-yard run in the third quarter and from 3 and 7 yards out in the fourth, the latter coming with 2:18 remaining.

“Salinas hasn’t won back-to-back league titles since the 1960’s,” said Salinas coach Steve Zenk. “Our goals were to beat Palma and win league. Now, it’s time to get back to work.”

“He’s as quick as a hiccup,” Mariners coach Randy Blankenship said of Gaskins, who also hauled in nine catches for 113 yards. “He wanted to win a league title and I think our No. 6 (Marcos Reyes) was running like that, too.”

Reyes, the Mariners’ all-time leading rusher and scorer, rushed for 160 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries, hauled in a 19-yard scoring pass from Fisher Johnson on a trick play and completed a pass to set up a 1-yard scoring run by Josh Powell.

“He’s a receiver,” Zenk said. “But we move him around. We use multiple backs. Mike (Cortez) went in and was our lead blocker on that last touchdown. That’s how unselfish this group is.”

Aptos (8-2, 5-2) tied for third place with San Benito (6-4, 5-2). All four said teams from the PCAL’s top division advance to the upcoming CCS playoffs. The section seeding meeting takes place Sunday morning in San Jose and the postseason games begin next weekend.

Aptos High's Shane Modena makes a first-down catch during the league championship game against Salinas on Friday, Nov. 2, 2018 (Brandon Vallance – Special to the Sentinel)

“That was the biggest play of the game,” Zenk said. “Aptos was moving the ball. When he picked it off, I was hoping Poe would just sit down. Instead he returned it 40 yards.”

Aptos fullback Josh Powell runs for a first down against Salinas on Friday Nov. 2, 2018 (Brandon Vallance – Special to the Sentinel)

Rather than listen to the noise on campus, Zenk took the day off from school Friday. He choose to relax and do a little yard work before Friday’s game, taking his mind off the moment.

Middle linebacker Silvano Lopez makes a tackle for Aptos High on Friday night. (Brandon Vallance – Special to the Sentinel)

With eight minutes to play, things changed in the fourth quarter when Salinas cleaned up the mistakes and took care of the ball as quarterback Carl Richardson engineered two scoring drives

Aptos High safety Vaughen Holland and cornerback Bubba Gallardo make the tackle against Salinas on Friday Nov. 2, 2018. (Brandon Vallance – Special to the Sentinel)

As a result, the reigning two-time league champions will be home for at least one postseason game, as Salinas (7-3) is expected to get a top-four seed in the Open Division I playoffs.

Marcos Reyes runs for a first down against Salinas on Friday Nov. 2, 2018. (Brandon Vallance – Special to the Sentinel)

“Our guys started making plays,” Zenk said. “Carl (Richardson) started connecting with all five of our receivers. Good things happened in the fourth quarter.”

Aptos High's defense line gets ready to apply pressure on Salinas on Friday night. (Brandon Vallance – Special to the Sentinel)

Marcos Reyes and Josh Powell each scored a touchdown to give Aptos a 14-7 halftime lead. The Mariners scored the first 10 points of the second half and extended their lead to 11.

Aptos High coach Randy Blankenship yells to his players on Salinas' field last Friday night. (Brandon Vallance – Special to the Sentinel)

Aptos also received a visit from Lady Luck on a fake fumble pass during the early moments of the fourth quarter. Senior quarterback Hunter Matys perfectly tossed the football off the turf and into the hands of senior backup quarterback Fisher Johnson, who then hit senior running back Marcos Reyes for a 19-yard touchdown to put Aptos up 24-13.

Aptos High running back Marcos Reyes avoids Salinas tacklers on Friday night. (Brandon Vallance – Special to the Sentinel)

Aptos High quarterback Hunter Matys runs for a gain on Friday night. (Brandon Vallance – Special to the Sentinel)

Aptos High guards Angel Morales, left, and Josh Sousa-Jimenez, right, block for running back Vaughen Holland on Friday night. (Brandon Vallance – Special to the Sentinel)

Aptos High's Marcos Reyes carries the ball against Salinas on Friday night. (Brandon Vallance – Special to the Sentinel)

The small but speedy running back made nine receptions for 127 yards. He also gave the Mariners’ defense headaches running the ball in the red zone, as he scored rushing touchdowns of 1, 3 and 7 yards over the final two quarters.

Aptos High's Marcos Reyes carries the ball against Salinas on Friday night. (Brandon Vallance – Special to the Sentinel)

Aptos High's Marcos Reyes carries the ball against Salinas on Friday night. (Brandon Vallance – Special to the Sentinel)

A week after falling one yard short of a game-winning touchdown against Palma, the Mariners fell a yard short of icing what would have been a title-clinching victory in Friday night’s 28-24 loss to Salinas at The Pit.

Anthony Cardenas Ramos makes a tackle for Aptos High on Friday night. (Brandon Vallance – Special to the Sentinel)

Anthony Cardenas Ramos makes a tackle for Aptos High on Friday night. (Brandon Vallance – Special to the Sentinel)

“Our goal was to win a league championship and we didn’t get it, but I think I got my football team back tonight,” Blankenship said. “That’s important. Really important.”

Aptos High quarterback Hunter Matys targets a receiver on Friday night. (Brandon Vallance – Special to the Sentinel)

For Aptos, that was the difference between an undefeated regular season, and a heartbreaking finish to an otherwise dominant Pacific Coast Athletic League Gabilan division campaign.

Aptos High quarterback Hunter Matys drops back to pass on Friday night. (Brandon Vallance – Special to the Sentinel)

With the win, Salinas (7-3, 6-1) earned a share of the inaugural PCAL-G title along with Palma (9-1, 6-1), which blasted San Benito, 49-28, the night before to clinch its share.

Aptos High quarterback Hunter Matys targets a receiver on Friday night. (Brandon Vallance – Special to the Sentinel)

Marcos Reyes carries the ball for the Mariners on Friday night. (Brandon Vallance – Special to the Sentinel)

Two touchdowns by Elijah Washington (one running, one to Jake Sotelo), a 20-yard score by Joe Zazueta and a long run from Morales ensured the Vikings stayed ahead for good. The visiting Falcons cut it to 42-35 with 1:45 left but Morales touchdown sealed the victory to end coach Ben Ceraldes first season on a high note.

Expand “This season is over,” Blankenship said. “Next week starts the new season, so … our goal was to win a league championship and we didn’t get it. But I think I got a football team back tonight. That’s important, really important. That was fun to watch.”

Alisal, as they had repeatedly done over the course of the game, drove within scoring range as the games closing minutes ticked down. A missed field goal with 17 seconds left gave the Aztecs the win. Soledad coach Eric Rodriguez timeout call was never heard by the officials before the snap so the score held.

Said Reyes: “We could’ve won. It is what it is, flush it. We’re back next week. Yeah, I feel we got our team back. Those guys were huge, man. The first play, I could feel it. But, hey, we gave a great effort. I love my boys. I’d do it all over 1,000 times even though I know the outcome. It was a great game.”

Though the visiting Aztecs ran out to a quick 7-3 lead in the first quarter, Trojans running back Dorian Segovia did the work hes done all season. The senior traded touchdowns with the Soledad offense before his second score of the night put Alisal ahead 17-14 in the third quarter.

Blankenship said he was disappointed after his team performed “out of character” in last week’s heartbreaking 40-35 loss to visiting Palma. This week, the Mariners looked like their old, feisty, chip-on-their-shoulder selves.

Outsized by a large margin across the field, the Mariners stuck with their run-heavy offense and attacked the heart of the defense, where they had to get past looming twin tackles Joshua and Sebastian Gomez, both of whom are 6-foot-2, 250 pounds. Both have received scholarship offers from the University of San Diego, an NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision program.

“When you chop big redwood, you keep choppin’ and keep choppin’ and it’s going to fall one of these times,” Blankenship said.

It was tough sledding for the Cowboys offense in the second half. Following a field goal by the Mariners, a few big runs by Gaskins put Salinas in scoring position. He busted through the line for a score and cut the deficit to 17-13.

The Mariners finished 8 of 13 passing for 107 yards and compiled 261 yards rushing on 53 attempts. But, much like their narrow loss to Palma last week, when they failed to score twice in goal-line situations, the Mariners failed to get one key yard. Aptos was unable to convert a fourth-and-1 situation on Salinas’ 41-yard line midway through the fourth quarter and the Cowboys went on to produce the decisive, 11-play scoring drive.

After going down 7-6 by the end of the first half, North Salinas scored twice to make it 18-7 at halftime. Manny Camberos scored on a fake punt to push the lead to 24-7 early in the third and North Salinas never looked back.

“My coach always tells me to be great, that I’ve got something special. So I just go out there and every time I touch the ball I try to score,” Gaskins said. “Whatever it takes.”

Aptos also had a second-and-goal situation on Salinas’ 3 and was unable to punch it in. They settled for a 28-yard field goal from Danny Dahel.

The Aptos offense is driving near midfield down four points. With a touchdown, the Mariners could win both the game and a share of the Pacific Coast Athletic League (PCAL)-Gabilan division championship. 

Salinas ran for 75 yards on 27 carries and quarterback Carl Richardson completed 25 of 33 passes for 290 yards. He was sacked twice by Trevor Catesi and Dre Gomez and hurried several other times, but the no-huddle Cowboys took the pressure in stride.

Aptos quarterback Hunter Matys rolls out to his right and lofts the ball down the right side. As hed done nearly all game on offense, Salinas senior Poe Gaskins Jr. made a play on defense.

Silvano Lopez intercepted Richardson just before the half. The Mariners dropped three other potential interceptions.

Salinas, which was upset by San Benito last week to create a four-way tie for first entering the final week of the regular season, sealed the game with an interception from Gaskins.

The Mariners moved the ball from their own 20-yard line to Salinas’ 32 when Gaskins stepped in front of Johnson at the 20 and returned it to Aptos’ 42. The Cowboys kneeled on the ball twice to kill the final 34.4 seconds.

“I was just thinking the whole time, they have to pass,” Gaskins said. “They had to pass the ball and if they came my way I was coming, so I had to jump it.”


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