Aptos alum Zach Hewett, 39, takes over as Mariners’ head football coach – Santa Cruz Sentinel

Jim Seimas

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APTOS — The Mariners went to one of their own to find a successor for retired coaching legend Randy Blankenship.

Zach Hewett, a 2003 Aptos High grad, was named the head coach of the Mariners’ football team on Thursday.

Aptos was one of four schools with a head football coach vacancy this season, and the most coveted. The Mariners, the alma mater of Super Bowl winning quarterback Trent Dilfer, have a rich and successful history.

Hewett experienced the full range of emotions after he heard he got the job, while his girlfriend, Kori Williams, ran laps around the house to celebrate.

“It was a big combination of relief and excitement,” said Hewett, 39, who served as head coach of the junior-varsity football program the past nine years, “And a big realization of, ‘Whoa, let’s get to work.”

Hewett had envisioned leading the program for quite some time.

“Fifteen years ago, it was, ‘Wouldn’t that be cool one day…’ and here I am,” he said.

An on-campus coach, he serves as Aptos’ physical education department chair, and teaches weight training.

Hewett played football and earned his bachelor’s degree from Willamette University in Oregon. He earned a master’s in athletic administration from Ohio University.

“Zach Hewett combines humor and perseverance in his coaching,” said Dr. Alison Hanks-Sloan, Aptos’ principal. “His commitment to our school, love for our community, and years of football experience are a perfect combination. We look forward to the next chapter of Aptos football with coach Hewett at the helm.”

A former standout in the discus at Aptos, Hewett has also helped coach the school’s track and field team for more than a decade, including six years at the helm.

“We’re excited to start this next chapter with head coach Zach Hewett,” said Travis Fox, the Mariners’ athletics director. “He has ingrained himself in this campus and community over the past 15 years. He knows this place in and out. And he has a tremendous amount of community support. … He teaches P.E. here. It’s an organic transition.”

Hewett inherits a team that went 2-8 in 2023, 1-5 in the Gabilan Division, the top tier of the equity Pacific Coast Athletic League.

Aside from last season’s woes, the Mariners have been Santa Cruz County’s most successful team over the past 15 years. Blankenship, the mastermind behind his team’s revered Wing-T offense, won eight league titles and four Central Coast Section championships in his 14 seasons at the helm. He finished with more than 300 wins in his 50-year coaching career.

The Mariners aren’t far removed from success. they shared the Gabilan title with Salinas and Palma in 2022.

Hewett also intends to be the best version of himself, not the next Blankenship.

“All you can do is be yourself,” Hewett said. “I stood next to him for nine years. Our personalities and coaching styles, we’re very different people. But I’ll be hearing his voice in the back of my head for the rest of my career. WWRBD. That’s ‘What would Randy Blankenship do?’ If I have half the career he had, that’s a clear-cut Hall of Fame career.”

Hewett said the support he has from the administration, and pretty much everyone else on campus, as well as the community, make this a dream job.

“There’s a saying, ‘There’s a lot of coaches out there, but not a lot of great jobs,’ ” Hewett said. “Aptos is a great job.”

Hewett intends to continue to run the Wing-T. He said it gives his team the best chance to be compete in the Gabilan Division. He believes it also creates game planning headaches for opposing coaches.

The Mariners, who had 110 players in the program in the fall, will graduate 21 seniors this year. Hewett will continue to recruit students on campus to fortify the ranks.

He said his top priority is to give the Class of 2025 the best senior experience possible.

Aptos has preseason games scheduled against The King’s Academy of Sunnyvale, Archbishop Mitty of San Jose, and Watsonville, and a crossover game against Seaside, before jumping into Gabilan play.

“I love the challenge,” Hewett said. “It forces us to be at our best all the time. There’s no chumps in this league.”

Manny Contreras, 39, a longtime assistant with stints at four area schools, was named Watsonville’s coach last Thursday. Two other county schools, Santa Cruz and Harbor, still have head coaching vacancies.

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Jim Seimas www.santacruzsentinel.com High School Sports,Latest Headlines,Sports,Aptos Mariners,High School Football,Newsletter

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2024-01-11 20:08:49 , Watsonville – Santa Cruz Sentinel

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