Abel Renteria connected with Kai Mault on a 19-yard touchdown pass with 2:13 remaining in the fourth quarter and Santa Barbara High coach J.T. Stone opted to go for the two-point conversion and the lead with the Dons trailing 21-20.
However, the gamble backfired as Renteria was pressured into an incomplete pass and Channel League favorite Pacifica held on for a 28-20 victory on Friday night at Pacifica High.
“We’re going to play to win and that’s on me,” Stone said. “I’d do it again. We’re here to win.”
Five turnovers overshadowed an inspired effort by the Dons and in the end the miscues were too much to overcome against an uber-talented Pacific team that kept making big plays.
Pacifica running back Josh Joyner rushed for 172 yards on 15 carries and three touchdowns, including runs of 70 and 51 yards.
The Tritons notched four interceptions all of which halted long Santa Barbara drives in the red zone. Renteria passed the ball 50 times for over 300 yards, but couldn’t avoid costly mistakes.
Pacifica opened the game with an eight-play, 73-yard drive capped off by a one yard touchdown run by Joyner off a direct snap with 10:09 remaining in the first quarter. The Dons responded with an eleven-play, 78-yard drive that Renteria finished off with an eleven-yard swing pass to Koa Herrera with 2:30 remaining in the first quarter..
The next Pacifica drive only took one play as Joyner found a gap up the middle and exploded to the end zone, giving the Tritons a 14-7 lead with 2:09 remaining in the first quarter.
Santa Barbara remained within striking distance until Jesse Taylor Jr. stepped in front of a Renteria pass and returned it 68-yards for a touchdown, increasing the Pacifica lead to 21-7 with 9:25 remaining in the third quarter.
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The two touchdown deficit woke up the Santa Barbara offense and Nathan Barrios capped off an eight-play 61-yard drive with a 13-yard touchdown run, cutting the Pacifica lead to 21-14.
Barrios has been nursing an injury and did not play in Santa Barbara’s first two games. He saw his first action of the season on the final drive of the first half and gave the Dons a huge lift in the second half.
“It was tough man time,” said Stone of Barrios. “It was time to put him in and he went to work and gave us that spark.”
An interception by Andrew Tobin midway through the fourth quarter gave Santa Barbara the ball with plenty of time to even the score.
The Dons put together a 14-play, 88-yard drive that melted the clock and Renteria found Mault on a 19-yard touchdown pass with 2:13 remaining, setting the stage for the decisive two point conversion.
After the failed conversion, Santa Barbara could not recover the ensuing onside kick and Joyner took the first play of the next Pacifica possession 51-yards to the end zone.
Santa Barbara got the ball back with 1:57 to play still within striking distance and marched to the Pacifica 36-yard line before turning the ball over on downs.
“I was getting emotional because we have literally coached against each other for 21 years and this is the last time,” said Pacifica coach Mike Moon of his relationship with Stone. “I told him win or lose it’s great to share the field with him and it’s always a battle.”
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