Rio mesa #21 Henry Borjas breaks free from the Santa Barbara defense. | Credit: Victor Bryant

A late comeback attempt by the Santa Barbara High football team wasn’t enough as Rio Mesa held on for a 17-14 victory and secured second place in the Channel League on Friday night.

Both teams were guaranteed to make the playoffs coming into the game and suffered losses to first-place Pacifica in Channel League play. For the Dons, building momentum and staying healthy going into the playoffs were the primary objectives.

“It was ugly, yeah. I told the kids, if we win or lose the game, we are in the playoffs. Everybody has their own beliefs in this last game,” said Santa Barbara coach J.T. Stone. “My goal for our kids was to get momentum, to play well, and I’m just glad in the second half we played well.”

Santa Barbara’s offense could not get into gear in the first half and only mustered 33 total yards and one first down before heading to the locker room down 10-0.

Rio Mesa was able to move the ball in spurts resulting in a 32-yard field goal by Matthew Romero on their opening drive. The Spartans followed that up with an eight-yard touchdown run by 5′10″, 250-pound J.D. Laupola, which finished off a 16-play drive with 9:19 remaining in the second quarter.

The Dons came out strong on their opening possession of the second half, but a bad snap on 4th-and-2 from the seven-yard line doomed the promising drive. 

Rio Mesa extended its lead to 17-0 on a 30-yard run by Laupola, his second touchdown of the game, with 47 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

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Santa Barbara finally got on the scoreboard on an eight-yard pass from Abel Renteria to Koa Herrera with 2:41 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Dons recovered the ensuing onside kick, and Renteria plunged into the end zone from one yard out to close the Santa Barbara deficit to 17-14.

The Dons will discover their playoff fate, including division and first-round matchup, when brackets are released on Sunday. 

Bishop Diego 38, Camarillo 7

Qu’Ran Gossett ran for 178 yards and four touchdowns as the Cardinals claimed their second consecutive Camino League championship. Bishop Diego is by far the top-ranked team in Santa Barbara County and will likely find themselves in the CIF-SS Division 3 playoffs when the brackets are released Sunday.

Santa Ynez 42, San Marcos 6

The Royals needed a victory to earn a playoff bid, but it was not to be as star running back Andre McCullough was held out with a shoulder injury. Santa Ynez (8-2) finished the regular season unbeaten at home and were a last-second loss to Buena away from winning the Pacific View League Championship.

Lompoc 60, Dos Pueblos 7

With the win, Lompoc is playoff eligible and will await the release of brackets Sunday to determine their fate. The Chargers finish the season 2-8.

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