After meeting every year on the gridiron since 1960, the annual Big Game between Santa Barbara and San Marcos was cancelled for the first time last season due to the Covid-19 Pandemic.
On Friday night, the two teams renewed their rivalry and celebrated the life of Santa Barbara High great Sam Cunningham, who passed away on September 7, with a pregame ceremony.
A capacity crowd packed into Peabody Stadium and cheered enthusiastically as the host Dons put together an explosive offensive performance to defeat previously unbeaten San Marcos 40-7.
“These kids really do a good job of listening at practice and they are allowing us to really coach them,” said Santa Barbara High coach J.T. Stone. “They are so young and inexperienced, so really doing a good job of listening to the basics of the things that we need them to do.”
At the very front of the young talent on the Santa Barbara roster is sophomore quarterback Abel Renteria, who was named the Gary Blades Memorial Big Game MVP after tossing four touchdown passes and running for another.
Renteria took his lumps in a season opening loss to Saugus, but has progressed nicely, while leading Santa Barbara on a three-game winning streak.
“He’s a sophomore. I thought he moved the chains and played well tonight,” Stone said. “He’s got to get better, and he’s got to get better every day.”
Santa Barbara opened the scoring with 2:08 remaining in the first quarter on a 69-yard bomb from Renteria to Trent Williams that electrified the crowd. After a block punt by Grant Gonzales set up Santa Barbara with a first down at the San Marcos nine-yard line early in the second quarter, Renteria found Miguel Unzueta in the back of the end zone increasing the Dons’ lead to 13-0 after a missed extra point.
Gonzales and Nathan Barrios lived in the San Marcos backfield and made life difficult for shifty running back Andre McCullough and quarterback Joaquin Sandoval who was forced to leave the game just before halftime with a lower leg injury.
Santa Barbara closed the first half with a 47-yard touchdown pass from Renteria to Anthony Lopez followed by a 15-yard touchdown pass from Renteria to Jack Holdren to take a 27-0 lead into the locker room at halftime.
San Marcos came out in the second half determined to fight and opened the second half by recovering a pooch kick, but Josh Engel’s pass into the end zone on the ensuing drive was intercepted by Andrew Tobin.
However, an interception by San Marcos defensive back Luis Mayo on the ensuing Santa Barbara drive set up the Royals lone touchdown of the game. Josh Engel took the snap and pitched it to Lance Bermudes who tossed a pass to the endzone that found the waiting arms of Cam Lugo.
Barrios closed the scoring for Santa Barbara with an 18-yard touchdown run with 1:43 remaining in the fourth quarter he finished with 69 yards on six carries.
Santa Barbara will travel to Ventura next week. Both teams are riding three-game winning streaks.
Buena 37 Dos Pueblos 12
The host Bulldogs jumped ahead 30-0 at halftime and cruised to victory. Dos Pueblos remains winless on the season.
Arroyo Grande 48 Lompoc 47
Six touchdowns by San Diego State commit Sheldon Canley weren’t enough to get the Braves over the hump as Arroyo Grande thwarted a potential game-winning drive by Lompoc late in the fourth quarter.
Santa Ynez 48 Santa Maria 7
The Pirates scored early and often on homecoming and improved to 3-1 on the season. Santa Ynez will host Lompoc next week.
Channel Islands 33 Caprinteria 0
The Raiders snapped a 26-game losing streak. The Warriors remain winless on the season.