The setting for Santa Barbara City College’s football games is nothing short of spectacular. The high-rising stands at La Playa Stadium provide postcard views. The deep blue sea looms beyond the bright green synthetic turf of the playing field and the reddish oval of the track. The facilities were upgraded over the summer, and a dedication ceremony was held before the Vaqueros’ opening game last Saturday.
Shortly after kickoff, it was the visiting Allan Hancock College Bulldogs who provided the spectacle. They had two long touchdown runs in the first quarter en route to a 51-6 victory.
Vaqueros coach Craig Moropoulos was not discouraged. Hancock was more than a difficult hurdle — it was an entire flight of hurdles. The Bulldogs, loaded with fleet running backs and big guys to block for them, will likely be recognized as the most powerful team on SBCC’s schedule.
Sophomore quarterback John Uribe, who set several passing records at Santa Barbara High, had the Vaqueros on the move early in the game but was victimized by dropped passes, several of them in the end zone. Freshman Alonzo Winn rushed for 84 yards. Chaz Dalton’s two field goals accounted for all of Santa Barbara’s scoring.
It is not often that a football coach gets doused by a bucket of water at the outset of a season, but Jaime Melgoza and the Santa Barbara High Dons had worked long and hard toward their 17-0 victory over Channel Islands last Friday night.
“We haven’t seen such happy kids in a long time,” Melgoza said after he began his second campaign as head coach with his first win. The Dons had gone 0-10 in 2009 and lost 12 consecutive games overall, the worst slump in the storied history of the program. “The kids are starting to believe,” Melgoza said. “They are starting to know what our passion for the game is all about.”
Ten sophomores are starting for the Dons, and the returning players from last year’s downtrodden team feed off their energy.
“It feels great,” junior running back Brad Jellison said. “It’s a whole new team and a whole new season.” Jellison scored Santa Barbara’s first points on a 55-yard run up the middle. “It was the biggest hole I’ve ever seen,” he said. “The line did great.”
Santa Barbara’s other points came on a 25-yard pass from poised sophomore quarterback Shawn Ramos to Matt Gonzalez and a booming 46-yard field goal by Matthew Medina, who also kicked a pair of PATs.
After the victory, the Dons gathered around the coaches to say a prayer and then a shout: “Family!”
“The feeling is wonderful,” said Robert Palmer, a senior defender who put heat on the Channel Islands quarterback. “It’s surreal,” senior lineman Caleb Ballesteros said. “I had such butterflies before the game. I can’t believe it.”
Another development that brightens the outlook for the Dons’ gridders — as well as those of San Marcos and Dos Pueblos — is the departure of football juggernaut St. Bonaventure from the Channel League. From the time they joined the league in 2002 through last season, the Seraphs never lost a league game on the field.
The new alignment leaves the Channel League with five teams — Buena, Ventura, and the three Santa Barbara schools. Each of them will play six non-league games and have a bye week sometime during the league season (between Oct. 15 and Nov. 12).
It looked like one of those old “Black and Blue Division” NFL games in which the Bears and Lions would maul each other. The Dos Pueblos Chargers played just that kind of physical football against the Righetti Warriors from Santa Maria last weekend.
Righetti won 7-3, the difference being a touchdown when a 6’2” Warriors receiver outjumped a 5’7” DP defensive back in the end zone. The coverage wasn’t bad, but the pass was perfectly placed.
Coming into the season, Charger Coach Jeff Uyesaka thought his defense would be formidable, and that unit did not disappoint. Swarming linemen and linebackers such as Collin Powell, Alex Pena, Aaron Thomas, and Brandon Johnson bottled up the Warriors’ running attack and harassed the quarterback.
Righetti returned the favor on the other side of the ball, making it difficult for DP’s new spread offense to get untracked. Eventually, Uyesaka hopes it will bear some resemblance to the college offenses of Oregon and Utah that it’s modeled after. Scrambling runs by senior quarterback Michael Spiritosanto accounted for most of the Chargers’ positive yardage in the opener. Nicolai Bornand put them on the scoreboard by kicking a 31-yard field goal.
It wasn’t a great year for any of the city football teams last year but the San Marcos Royals secured bragging rights by defeating Santa Barbara and Dos Pueblos. They weren’t necessarily the most talented of the three teams — all the crosstown games were very close and competitive — but head coach Jeff Hesselmeyer managed to get the most out of them.
This season, even more than last, the undersized Royals will have to rely on grit and determination. They had a long night in their opener against a solid Cabrillo team that beat them
28-6. They did enjoy the highlight play of the night — an 84-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Randee Harvey.
The Warriors will no longer have to cope with Oaks Christian, a behemoth that outgrew the small schools in the Tri-Valley League (TVL). OC’s Lions moved into the Marmonte League with St. Bonaventure. “The TVL now has five schools that represent their towns,” Carpinteria athletic director Van Latham said.
Head coach Ben Hallock has an able assistant on his staff — Rick Candaele, who coached UCSB’s last football team in 1990 and recently retired as head coach at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. They have a number of talented players to work with, including senior quarterback Paul Aguilar and fullback/linebacker Jovan Saenz.
The Cardinals also can hope for a return to the CIF playoffs after getting out from under the domination of Oaks Christian. They will have a manageable schedule in the Frontier League this fall.
Bishop lost its starting quarterback when Kyle Holland’s father, former UCSB basketball assistant Brad Holland, took a job in San Diego County. Two candidates to replace him are senior Andrew Saucier and Nolan Tisdale. They’ll often try to put the ball in the hands of junior running back Brandon Gonzalez. The Cardinals have a placekicker, senior Mike Morando, who can split the uprights from long range.
The Owls “don’t have a lot of linemen,” head coach Ray Robitaille said. “Luckily we only need three.” They play eight-man football, a game that allows small private schools to play the sport. Troy Ritter will be quarterback in their shotgun formation.
The Rams started their eight-man program after Laguna Blanca did, but lately they have been dominating the “Littlest Big Game” against the Owls. It will take place on the Cate field in the Carpinteria hills on October 23. “Things are going well,” said Rams coach Ben Soto. “We have a beautiful place to play.”
Home Games: Sept. 18: Ventura, 6pm; Oct. 2: L.A. Southwest, 6pm; Oct. 16: L.A. Pierce, 6pm; Nov. 6: West L.A., 7pm.
Santa Barbara HS
Home Games: Sept. 17: Lompoc, 7pm; Oct. 1: Nordhoff, 7pm; Oct. 15: San Marcos, 7pm; Oct. 22: Ventura, 7pm.
Dos Pueblos HS
Home Games: Sept. 24: Lompoc, 7pm; Oct. 1: Rio Mesa, 7pm; Oct. 22: Buena, 7pm; Oct. 29: Santa Barbara, 7pm.
San Marcos HS
Home Games: Sept. 10: Rio Mesa, 7pm; Sept. 16: Beverly Hills, 7pm; Oct. 8: Nordhoff, 7pm; Nov. 5: Dos Pueblos, 7pm; Nov. 12: Buena, 7pm.
Home Games: Sept. 10: Morro Bay, 7:30pm; Oct. 8: Grace Brethren, 7:30pm; Oct. 15: Fillmore, 7:30pm; Nov. 5: Nordhoff, 7:30pm; Nov. 12: Bishop Diego, 7:30pm.
Bishop Diego HS
Home Games (at SBCC’s La Playa Stadium): Sept. 10: Santa Ynez, 7:30pm; Sept. 25: Santa Paula, 7:30pm; Oct. 8: St. Genevieve, 7:30pm; Oct. 22: Santa Clara, 7:30pm; Oct. 30: Grace Brethren, 7pm.
Home Games: Sept. 25: Santa Maria Valley Christian, 3pm; Oct. 2: Dunn, 2pm; Oct. 16: Thacher, 3pm.
Home Games: Sept. 11: Antelope Valley Christian, 1:30pm; Oct. 2: Christian Life Academy, 2pm; Oct. 9: East Valley, 2pm; Oct. 23: Laguna Blanca, 2pm; Oct. 30: Dunn, 2pm.