By JIM SEIMAS
Sentinel staff writer
SANTA CRUZ — Harbor High quarterback Rob Atkinson was one of many Pirates players to notice that it was Dana Ensminger who scored late in the third quarter for Aptos.
Ensminger — still suffering the lingering effects from a staph infection — got sick on the football field earlier in the game after scoring his first touchdown but, here he was, still wreaking havoc.
It was a true showing of heart and it inspired to Pirates to show their own in a thrilling, 34-30 come-from behind win to end the regular season Saturday.
Ensminger putting the Mariners up 30-21 late in the third with his second touchdown run, but Atkinson led the Pirates on two scoring drives longer than 85 yards in a span of four minutes in the fourth quarter to help his team chalk up one of the school’s finest victories — even if the game pitted two teams battling it out for its first Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League win this season.
“It got me [fired up],” Atkinson said of Ensminger scoring. “He gets sick and he’s still out there giving his all. It let us all know that we could do better, give a little more.”
Atkinson finished with two single-game, school-records: 413 yards passing and five touchdowns. His yardage total is the second highest in county history to Monte Vista Christian’s Josh Blanton, who threw for 439 yards against Watsonville in 2006.
When the dust settled in this epic contest, it was dusk. You couldn’t see all the Pirates’ smiles, but you could hear the jubilation.
“I want to hug everyone I know right now,” said Pirates linebacker Cody Kingdom, who had one of his team’s two interceptions. “This win was great. It was just like I hoped. I like close games. It gets your heart jumping. I’m going to remember this forever.”
Atkinson had the other pick at the Pirates’ 3-yard line with 3.5 seconds left.
Harbor [4-6, 1-5] gave every indication it was ready to snap its five-game losing streak. It battled third-place SCCAL finisher San Lorenzo Valley [14-6] tough two weeks ago and second-place St. Francis [18-7] last week.
“This was our best game all season,” Atkinson said. “We played like a team.”
Seconds after the game, Atkinson, a senior, said he wanted to play again. Funny, because he was unsuccessful in scoring an energy drink from his dad at the start of the second half.
“I need energy,” he told his dad.
It was hard to tell. Though Harbor’s offense line was severely outmatched and outsized, the scrambling quarterback — who was sacked six times in the second half — bought enough time to make the big plays when it mattered most.
His 47-yard touchdown strike to wide open Derek Bodiford gave Harbor its first lead with 1:45 left in the game.
“I was open a lot and I kept telling the coaches ‘The backside routes are coming through’ ” said Bodiford, a 6-foot-6 senior. “I told them three or four times. I told them the whole game. And they finally listened to me.”
Harbor started the winning drive at its own 18 but a penalty pushed the ball back to its own 7-yard line. They ended up moving the ball 93 yards on three big pass plays.
On Harbor’s previous possession, the offense moved 87 yards on six plays. Atkinson hooked up with receiver Vince Dempwolf from 37 yards out to narrow the deficit to 30-28.
Needless to say, the loss did sit well with the Mariners.
“It sucks,” said a teary-eyed Ensminger. “We just had to finish. That’s been the story all year. We work hard and play hard, but we couldn’t finish out. No excuses, we didn’t get it done.”
Atkinson finished 24-of-33 passing and threw his five touchdowns to five different receivers. Jalen Cahill, Jake Pruger and Kevin Beattie also had touchdown receptions.
Cahill, a short, shifty junior, finished with six receptions for 106 yards.
Atkinson’s counterpart Miles Norton was 10-of-21 passing for 131 yards. The Mariners finished with 161 yards passing and 186 rushing, thanks in part to fullback Evan Mehl pounding out 15 carries for 83 yards.
Aptos finishes its season at 2-8, 0-6. It’s the first time since 1969 — the school’s first year playing varsity football — that it has finished league play without a win.
Contact Jim Seimas at 706-3256 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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