It was the Aaron McAnerney and Elijah Marta show on Friday night after they scored all five touchdowns for Aptos High in the Central Coast Section Division-III semifinal game against Monterey High.
The Mariners beat the Toreadores 34-31 in a nail biter to the end at Monterey Peninsula College and they will play in the championship game next week for the first time since 2003 when they beat Hollister 26-12.
McAnerney gave thanks to his offensive line and the great blocking they did up front after he racked up a total of 243 yards, 148 on the ground and 95 receiving, and three touchdowns including a 33-yard score in the third quarter that pulled the Mariners within six points of Monterey.
“I’m so freaken relieved right now,” he said about getting the victory against Monterey. “We just wanted to win the game, we want to be in the show. We haven’t been down at halftime since week two and that was the last game we lost, so it’s good to see us come back from a deficit again. That was cool.”
The other member of the dynamic duo, Marta, ran for 138 yards on 15 carries and found the end zone twice. His second touchdown came with 2:47 left in the fourth quarter and gave Aptos a small 10-point cushion over Monterey at the time.
The Mariners (10-2) defense also stepped up when they needed to and recovered two of the Toreadores five fumbles on Friday night. Eli Ungerecht was able to pick up one of the turnovers by Monterey and he was stoked to move on to the championship game.
“Relieved,” he said. “It was a close game. We needed this, we just needed to stop them. I wanted our team to do this, we’ve been wanting this so long.”
The Mariners head coach Randy Blankenship was able to regroup his team after they were down 20-7 going into halftime and he now has a chance to bring home a CCS title to Aptos.
“Our kids, you just can’t say enough of the grit they have,” he said. “We only had seven points at halftime and to came out and do what we did, that’s a championship team.”
The Toreadores (9-3) jumped in front of the Mariners 7-0 in the first quarter on a 79-yard touchdown drive led by Jimmy Hill. It took Monterey 15 plays, all runs, and close to eight minutes off the clock after Hill’s five-yard trot into the end zone.
But the Mariners answered right back with a nice 13-play drive of their own and was capped off by a 4-yard touchdown run by Marta to tie things up at 7-7.
However, Monterey was able to catch Aptos off guard after Hill threw for two touchdowns just before halftime to give his team a commanding 20-7 lead.
After the break, McAnerney turned on the jets and took over the game after he was stopped to only 18 yards on 4 carries in the first two quarters.
It didn’t take long for Aptos to score in the third after McAnerney ran a 33-yard footrace to the goal line for his first touchdown of the night with 9:37 left on the clock.
His last two touchdowns came in the fourth quarter along with Marta’s game sealing run into the end zone.
But the Toreadores weren’t quite finished yet. Hill managed to drive his team for a quick touchdown with 1:27 left in the game to cut the lead by three 34-31. Monterey also caught a break after Marta fumbled the ball on Aptos’ own 4-yard line.
Yet, the Mariners defense was able to stop their opponents from reaching the end zone and made the Toreadores try a game tying field goal that came up short for Logan Hunter.
“I’m feeling great, we get to go to the show,” said coach Blankenship. “We get to practice one more week, these guys have just met all the challenges and our hats off to Monterey. It was a great battle and that’s the way a semifinal game should be.”