In the glory days of Santa Barbara High football, it was a tradition to play a game on Thanksgiving weekend. It could happen again this year, if the Golden Tornado (which supplants the Dons’ nickname in the CIF playoffs) can claim victory in the CIF Division 8 semifinals at Palmdale this Friday night.
That’s the goal, coach J.T. Stone affirmed at Monday’s Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table press luncheon: “We want to put the city on our backs and bring the championship home.”
Because they’ve had to hit the road for two consecutive weeks, the Golden Tornado would be designated the home team if they reach the final on the following Friday or Saturday (Nov. 29-30.) The other semifinalists are Sunny Hills of Fullerton and Trabuco Hills.
It would be the 30th anniversary of Santa Barbara’s last CIF football title, which it shared with Muir after playing to a 7-7 tie at La Playa Stadium in 1989. Stone said he would prefer playing at San Marcos High’s Warkentin Stadium, where the Golden Tornado opened this year’s playoffs with a 44-0 victory over Gahr.
Last week Santa Barbara outscored Palm Desert, 42-32, sparked by Deacon Hill and Dakota Hill, unrelated by blood but bonded by the forward pass. Deacon threw for 361 yards and four touchdowns, with Dakota making seven catches for 195 yards and two TDs.
Palmdale (11-1) takes a nine-game winning streak into Friday’s game against the Golden Tornado (10-2). The Falcons eked out a 13-12 win over Aliso Niguel last week behind a defense that has allowed just 124 points this year. Whether they will be able to hold off Santa Barbara’s high-powered offense (409 points) will tell the tale.
WATER POLO CHAMPS: It was a sportswriter who described Santa Barbara’s Roaring Twenties football team as a Golden Tornado, a name that’s stuck in every playoff since 1929. Maybe the Dons water polo team should be called the Green Tsunami. They swept through the Division 3 playoffs and brought home the boys’ team’s sixth CIF trophy after a 9-7 victory over Schurr last Saturday in Irvine.
“It’s gratifying because it wasn’t an easy season,” coach Mark Walsh said, recalling that the Dons seemed more interested into getting into fights than playing skillfully early in the season. But they went undefeated in the Channel League and were on their game throughout the playoffs.
A big hurdle was their quarterfinal showdown against No. 2-seeded Los Osos. It went into overtime, and sophomore Ryan Drake scored a last-second goal for an 11-10 win. Drake went spearfishing the next day and lacerated his hand, requiring surgery. But the Dons had seniors like Chase Raisin and Dylan Fogg who came through in the semis and final.
Raisin signed a national letter of intent last week to play at Santa Clara University. Dos Pueblos star Ethan Parrish signed with Stanford.
TOUGH BRACKET: The good news is that UCSB will be playing in the NCAA men’s soccer tournament for the first time since 2015. The harsh news is that a minefield lies between the Gauchos and the 2019 College Cup in Cary, N.C., starting with tonight’s (Thursday, Nov. 21) first-round match against Cal at Harder Stadium.
If they get by the Golden Bears, who have given them fits over the years, the unseeded Gauchos will have to travel to face St. Mary’s on Sunday afternoon. Round three, if they get that far, would likely be at Indiana, an eight-time national champion.
UCSB put itself in that situation by losing the Big West Tournament final to UC Davis, which drew a No. 14 seed and a bye to the second round.
Gaucho coach Tim Vom Steeg pins his hopes on the belief that “there’s huge parity in college soccer.” He predicted that “four or five” of the 16 seeded teams will go down in their first game. Past experience tells him that a 0-0 score will prevail through most games, and teams that can come up with one goal will advance. “We need somebody to do something special and get that one goal,” he said.
The Gauchos are motivated to pay back Cal for the 3-0 beating they took from the Bears in September. They were shorthanded in that game, missing their entire starting back line, including Noah Billingsley and Hunter Ashworth, who were helping New Zealand qualify for the 2020 Olympics.
GAUCHO HOOPS: UCSB has a Kiwi on its men’s basketball team, 6′10″ Oklahoma transfer Matt Freeman, and he had a stellar offensive game (15 points, on 6-for-7 shooting, and seven assists) against Rice last Saturday. But after the Gauchos took a 47-27 halftime lead, their defense was overrun, and they lost on a layup in the final seconds, 82-81. They also fell apart in the second half at UCLA after leading 34-32 at the break.
Bonnie Henrickson enjoyed one of the best nights of her five years as UCSB women’s coach on Monday, as the Gauchos led wire-to-wire in handing USC its first loss of the season, 57-46. Ila Lane, a 6′4″ freshman, had a double-double (21 points, 13 rebounds).
OTHER ACTION: It’s a busy weekend at Westmont College, which will play three basketball games and host the opening rounds of the NAIA National Championships in women’s soccer and volleyball. You can catch the Warrior women’s cagers in “The Best Western Plus Carpinteria Classic” on Friday at 6 p.m. vs. Our Lady of the Lake, a highly ranked team from Texas. The undefeated (as of Monday) Westmont men take the court at 8 p.m. against Maine Fort Kent. On Saturday, the soccer team will face either Marymount or Oregon Tech in the NAIA tournament at 11 a.m.; the volleyballers will host ace Point (Georgia) at 2 p.m.; and a basketball game between the Westmont women and Antelope Valley will polish off the day’s events at 7 p.m. In men’s soccer, No. 4-ranked Westmont has a bye in the NAIA opening round.
Three-time All-America hitter Lindsey Ruddins may be playing her last matches at the Thunderdome when the UCSB women’s volleyball team closes out the regular season Friday against Cal State Fullerton and Saturday against UC Irvine, both at 7 p.m. A three-match losing streak dropped the Gauchos to third in the Big West, but they swept Cal State Northridge last Saturday for coach Nicole Lantagne Welch’s 100th win in seven seasons with the Gauchos and their 20th victory of this season, the most since 2009.