With a playoff berth in reach, the Santa Barbara High football team delivered its best performance of the season to defeat Channel League rival Dos Pueblos, 24-7, on Thursday night at Warkentin Stadium.
The Dons flashed moments of brilliance throughout the season, but had yet to put together four quarters of mistake-free football against a quality opponent. In the annual grudge match against Dos Pueblos it was win or miss out on the playoffs and Santa Barbara rose to the challenge.
“We just felt like Santa Barbara High always gets disrespected, so it was time to come out and play our type of football,” said Santa Barbara coach J.T. Stone. “We wanted to send the message tonight that we’re the best team in the city.”
Dos Pueblos (6-4 overall, 3-2 Channel League) was fresh off a 35-28 victory over Santa Ynez, but suffered several key injuries in the process to difference makers such as Dillon Roberts and Udy Loza Jr. The Chargers likely secured their playoff chances last week with the win over the Pirates, but had an opportunity to claim second place in the Channel League outright with a win over Santa Barbara (6-4, 3-2)
The Chargers’ loss to the Dons sets up what could be a three-way tie for second place between Santa Barbara, Santa Ynez and Dos Pueblos, all of whom will be 3-2 in Channel League play if Santa Ynez can avoid an upset loss at San Marcos Friday.
Based on a preseason tiebreaker that put the Channel league teams in order if they finish with the same record Santa Barbara would receive second place for playoff seeding, Dos Pueblos would be in third place and Santa Ynez would be in fourth place.
The Chargers and Pirates will therefore have to apply for at-large berths into the playoffs, but based on the number of qualified teams in Division 5 and Division 7 respectively, both teams will almost certainly be in the playoffs.
“We absolutely did not come to play up front, we did not match their intensity and we did not rise to the occasion,” said Dos Pueblos coach Doug Caines. “Credit to (Santa Barbara} they did their thing. They worked hard, but I think we left a lot of money on the table and it’s unfortunate in this type of game we didn’t show up a little better.”
Dos Pueblos dominated time of possession in an extremely fast-paced first quarter, but couldn’t muster any points to show for it. Santa Barbara failed to record a first down in its first two drives, but in its third possession of the game midway through the second quarter the Dons put together a nine-play, 80-yard drive that culminated in a eight-yard touchdown pass from Deacon Hill to Dakota Hill with 4:23 remaining in the second quarter.
Santa Barbara had to settle for a 6-0 lead after Baylor Huyck blocked the ensuing extra point.
The Dons carried that 6-0 lead into halftime and on their first possession of the second half marched 52 yards on four plays, capped off by a 26 yard touchdown pass from Hill to Jackson Gonzales, increasing their lead to 14-0 after a successful two-point conversion.
“They were playing off a lot and we just really had to work those flats a lot and it opened up things deep for us as receivers,” said Gonzales, who finished with four catches for 112 yards and two touchdowns.
It appeared that the Dons had split the game open when Alex Gutierrez forced a Dos Pueblos fumble and John Valencia returned it for a touchdown. But the play was called back due to holding on the return and one play later Connor Lee intercepted an ill-advised Hill pass and returned it 70-yards for a touchdown, cutting the Dos Pueblos deficit to 14-7.
After a couple of disjointed drives Santa Barbara restored order with a 59-yard screen pass from Hill to Gonzales that increased the lead to 21-7 with 9:02 remaining in the game.
Santa Barbara tacked on a 37-yard Ty Montgomery field goal with just under two-minutes remaining to close the scoring.
Deacon Hill completed 14-of-20 passing for 199 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. The Santa Barbara defense held Dos Pueblos without an offensive touchdown.
Playoff pairing will be released on Sunday.