High school football: AJ Cenizal runs wild for Mitty in win over Aptos

Senior running back AJ Cenizal finished with 248 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries in Mitty’s home opener.

LOS ALTOS HILLS, Calif. — The Archbishop Mitty offensive line split the Aptos defense just enough to allow running back AJ Cenizal to get through. Cenizal shook off a couple of tackles before seeing only grass between him and the end zone. That’s when he activated the jets.

“I felt like I’m flying,” Cenizal said of his 83-yard rushing touchdown. “I looked back and saw [an Aptos player] closing in.” It felt like something out of a horror film.”

Cenizal, on the other hand, almost always found a way to escape and break through tackles for double-digit gains in Mitty’s 41-28 win over a tough Aptos squad to improve to 2-0 on the season.

Cenizal, who is only 5-foot-7 and weighs 185 pounds, plowed through the Mariners time and again Friday at Foothill College, Mitty’s usual home site. Cenizal had back-to-back 19-yard gains on the Monarchs’ second scoring drive. It took four Aptos players to stop him from progressing on the latter run.

He waltzed into the end zone for his second touchdown, a four-yard rush, to put the Monarchs up 14-0.

“That’s the AJ we know,” said Mitty head coach Danny Sullivan. “We think he’s one of the best backs around, and I don’t know how many times he’ll get taken down by the first guy, but it’s pretty rare.”

Cenizal rushed for 248 yards on 24 attempts, 194 of which came in the first half.

“I owe that to the line,” Cenizal said after sitting out the fourth quarter to treat a calf cramp. “They’re always there to support me.” Eric Robles and John Skeet are seniors, and Dylan Beigi and Alex Bleszynski are juniors. Cenizal also praised lineman Santiago Hardesty for filling in for the injured Dan Smith.

Aptos overcame Mitty’s 14-point lead in each half.

The Mariners began to gain traction in the second quarter. Aptos scored on a run up the middle by running back Lawrence Ingram IV. A holding flag on the subsequent kick return negated what would have been a 60-yard kick return for Mitty senior Toju Maku. To tie the game, Mariners cornerback Jordan Torres intercepted quarterback Joey Campagna and returned it for a touchdown.

The Monarchs, on the other hand, remained calm.

Justin Mendes, a senior receiver for Mitty, had a breakout night. Joey Campagna connected with him four times for 96 yards. With 23 seconds left in the first half, the two connected on a 45-yard touchdown pass, putting Mitty up 28-14. Mendes also scored an 11-yard touchdown late in the game.

“It’s a great feeling,” Mendes stated. “That was my first real chance to shine in the spotlight, and I took full advantage of it.”

The Mariners tied the game early in the fourth period, but the home team answered with 13 unanswered points.

Aptos coach Randy Blakenship said he was proud of his team’s effort but admitted they made too many fatal mistakes.

“We made [Cenizal] look good,” said Blakenship. “He ran through some tackles, but that’s to be expected when you arm tackle people.” But he has a strong burst and excellent balance. They have a good football team. We didn’t lose to Molly Putz.”

Both teams will be back in action on Friday. Mitty (2-0) will play Santa Teresa, another San Jose school, in its final non-league game before West Catholic play begins. Aptos (0-2) travels to San Luis Obispo to face Mission College Prep.

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