A furious second-half rally by Lompoc put the Santa Barbara High football team in danger of dropping its Channel League opener, but the Dons regained control late in the fourth quarter to secure a 44-38 victory, on Thursday night at Huyck Stadium.
Santa Barbara was clicking on all cylinders to start the game and jumped out to a 21-0 lead after the Sophomore tandem of quarterback Abel Renteria and wide receiver Winston Bartley combined for touchdown connections of 15 and 47 yards to put the Dons ahead 14-0.
Renteria followed that up with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Trent Williams that required a diving catch in the back of the end zone, and the Dons were cruising with a 21-0 lead late in the first quarter.
“It’s like another Deacon [Hill] out here in Abel,” said Santa Barbara High coach J.T. Stone. “I’m so proud of the kid. The conversation we had today, I said, ‘Abel, you’ve been playing this game your whole life. Just do what you do.’”
What Renteria does is pick up tough yards on the ground by running through tacklers while also spreading the ball around in the passing game and spreading the ball around with efficiency in the passing game. The Dons will be tough to beat with him at the helm.
Lompoc and its trio of superstars including, quarterback Cavin Ross, wide receiver/defensive back Deville Dickerson and running back Sheldon Canley Jr. did not go down quietly.
Ross connected with Nelson Maldonado on a 15-yard touchdown pass with 38 seconds remaining in the first quarter and the San Diego State commit Canley glided into the end zone from 23 yards out midway through the second quarter. Lompoc cut its deficit to 24-14 at halftime.
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“Our offense is keeping us in ball games right now, but when you have to play your starting quarterback at middle linebacker, you know there are some real struggles defensively,” said Lompoc coach Andrew Jones. “We have three great football players, but this really shows you that it takes a team to win games, and I think the sooner our guys figure that out, the better we will be.”
In the second half, Santa Barbara fumbled on its opening possession and Lompoc immediately turned that into a 30-yard Junior Gaeta field goal that brought them within one possession at 24-17.
The Dons increased their lead 31-17 on a 19-yard touchdown run by Renteria with 4:18 remaining in the third quarter, but Lompoc responded with back-to-back touchdown passes from Ross to Maldonado to even the score at 31-31 early in the fourth quarter.
The next drive was the most important of the game as Santa Barbara marched 63 yards on nine plays and took a 38-31 lead on a 10-yard touchdown run by Renteria with 6:07 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Another 10-yard touchdown run by Renteria with 2:08 remaining in the game put the Dons ahead 44-31, but Lompoc scored again in under a minute on a 28-yard pass from Ross to Elizondo, cutting their deficit to 44-38 with 1:26 remaining.
The ensuing onside kick by Lompoc trickled out of bounds, and Santa Barbara was able to run out the clock to preserve the victory and improve to 5-1 on the season.