Despite Season-Opening Loss, S.B. Dons Are Happy to Play for a Crowd

Sophomore Quarterback Abel Renteria Contends with Weighty Legacies

Credit: Entenza

Week zero of the high school football season is behind us, and beyond the results on the scoreboard, the pageantry, tradition, and excitement of a new season were on full display. 

That was especially apparent last Friday at Peabody Stadium, where the crowd packed into the Santa Barbara High School stands and created a festive atmosphere that was nearly two years in the making. 

“I think the best thing about tonight was seeing everybody here watching our football game,” said coach J.T. Stone. “Unfortunately, we didn’t come out with a win, but the atmosphere was great. This was definitely needed for the soul.”

Despite the boost of an enthusiastic home crowd, the Dons were no match for visiting Saugus in its season opener. The Centurions had the edge in experience, discipline, and confidence coming off of an undefeated spring season and punishing Santa Barbara for every mistake.

“Santa Barbara was a worthy opponent, but honestly, it’s just about us executing our stuff,” said Saugus head coach Jason Bornn. “If we do what we’re supposed to do when we’re supposed to do it, it really doesn’t matter what the other team does.”

Bornn’s confidence was warranted, as his team executed in crucial moments to secure the victory.

In the midst of the loss, all eyes were on Santa Barbara sophomore quarterback Abel Renteria, who has the unenviable task of replacing Deacon Hill, a hometown star now working his way up the quarterback pecking order at the University of Wisconsin. Hill brought Santa Barbara to the cusp of a CIF Championship in 2019, but that’s not the only legacy Renteria must contend with. His father, Alfonso “Poncho” Renteria, was the last quarterback to lead the Dons to a CIF Southern Section championship in 1989. 

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The Santa Barbara offense sputtered and only mustered 89 yards for the game. The Dons didn’t manage a first down until the 5:46 mark of the second quarter, and Renteria tossed a costly interception on his second throw. But more importantly, Renteria didn’t quit, cower, or retreat. He kept battling and improved as the game went on. For a sophomore with the weight of the world on his shoulders, that makes for a solid debut.

“We learned a lot,” Stone said. “There is some accountability that these kids need to have. When you’re on the field, it’s time to get the job done, and we did not do that tonight.”

The Dons will have an opportunity to pick up their first win when they travel to Thousand Oaks on Friday. The Lancers defeated Westlake 10-7 in their season opener, and while they don’t figure to be as tough as Saugus, Santa Barbara is in for another early-season test.

San Marcos Wins in Molina’s Debut

Prior to the season, Ralph Molina made a bold declaration for a coach taking over a football team that hasn’t made the playoffs in 16 years. “This is our year,” he said. 

It’s clear that Molina views San Marcos’s demotion from the Channel League to the newly formed Pacific View League as an opportunity. The team backed up his confidence in its season opener with a 25-14 victory over Morro Bay. 

There is considerable talent on the San Marcos roster with the return of Lance Bermudes and Jackson Murillo as well as the emergence of playmakers like Andre McCullough and Benji Rodriguez. 

With Molina in the fold and his track record as a motivator and defensive tactician, it’s unlikely that we see the same old San Marcos football team this season.

“I was born and raised here, and I remember the days when San Marcos had a good football program,” Molina said. “We’re just trying to get back to that mentality.”

The Royals will travel to Santa Maria Friday in search of their first 2-0 start since 2013.

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