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Tracking the Golden Tornado’s Past Triumphs

A Look at Santa Barbara High’s Previous Record in Championship Football Games

SBHS Dons vs DPHS Chargers at San Marcos High School | Credit: Paul Wellman

Santa Barbara High will be making its 12th appearance in a CIF football final and seeking its sixth championship Saturday night. Here is the history of the Golden Tornado in title games. 

1929: BIRTH OF THE TORNADO:  Legendary coach Clarence Schutte took Santa Barbara from nowhere to being recognized as a perennial prep football power throughout the region from San Diego to Santa Maria. The Dons had adopted the nickname Golden Tornado for the playoffs when they took their first shot at a CIF title in Long Beach, where Poly High stopped them, 14-6.

1935-40: THREE FOR FIVE:  The Golden Tornado’s first championship came in 1935 at the Rose Bowl, where it scored a late touchdown to edge Monrovia, 14-12. Two years later, Santa Barbara began a streak of four consecutive appearances in the championship game. 1937: In the only final played at Santa Barbara’s Peabody Stadium, quarterback Frankie Albert led Glendale to a 15-14 victory. 1938: The Golden Tornado won at Covina, 13-0. 1939: Alhambra prevailed over Santa Barbara at the L.A. Coliseum, 26-18. 1940: The Tornado posted a 26-0 shutout over Whittier to win its third title at the Coliseum. Inspirational 5′4″, 190-pound fullback Peter Zucco was CIF Player of the Year. He later spent 2½ years at a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp and came out weighing 100 pounds.

1948-49: TWO MORE TRIES: Schutte came back from his war service and took Santa Barbara to the Coliseum for two more shots at the title. In 1948, the Tornado tied St. Anthony, 7-7. The CIF arbitrarily used total first downs as a tiebreaker; St. Anthony had a 16-12 edge and was declared champion. In 1949, Compton’s 19-13 win marked the end of an era in which the Golden Tornado played eight CIF finals against eight different teams.

1960: THE LAST BIG ONE: The Tornado, coached by Sam Cathcart, defeated Centennial 19-6 at the Coliseum. It was the last time SBHS played for the title in the highest division of the Southern Section. Lineman Jim Murphy was CIF Player of the Year, but the Dons had noteworthy talent at the skill positions: Quarterback Rod Dowhower set records at San Diego State and was later head coach at Stanford; scatback Johnny Gilbert was a world-class sprinter; and wide receiver Gary Hart became a state senator.

1980: SCRAMBLING RANDALL:  With future all-pro quarterback Randall Cunningham making big plays, coach Mike Moropoulos’s Dons/Golden Tornado took a record 13-game winning streak into the Coastal Division final against Long Beach Poly. The smaller SBHS line could not keep Cunningham out of the clutches of the Jackrabbits, who dominated the game at Cerritos College, 35-7.

1989: LA PLAYA FIESTA:  A wild 28-27 overtime win over Canyon in the semifinals put coach Lito Garcia’s Tornado team in the Division 2 final against Pasadena Muir. An overflow crowd of 10,000 at La Playa Stadium watched them play to a 7-7 tie. Santa Barbara scored on Poncho Renteria’s 27-yard pass to Simon Banks. Bryan Stiles and Greg Araujo intercepted passes to thwart Muir in the closing minutes. There was no tiebreaker rule, and both teams were declared co-champions.

4•1•1 | CIF Southern Section Division 8 Football Championship. Santa Barbara Golden Tornado (11-2) vs. Sunny Hills Lancers (11-2) Saturday, November 30, 7 p.m. San Marcos High Warkentin Stadium. Tickets: $12, students with ID $5, under 4 free.

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