Abel Renteria delivered the game-winning touchdown pass in overtime. | Credit: ENTENZA

A hard-hitting throwback football game came down to the final play as Rio Mesa opted to go for a two-point conversion and the win in overtime, but the Santa Barbara defense held at the one-yard line to preserve a 7-6 victory on Friday night at Peabody Stadium.

The two teams were locked in a shocking scoreless tie through four quarters of action. Both teams came into the game averaging more than 35 points per game, but the defenses ascended to the occasion and dominated.

“Our defense won us this football game. We’ve got some things to work on offensively,” said Santa Barbara coach J.T. Stone. “We knew it was going to be a tough task, but we’ve got to score in the red zone.”

Rio Mesa was driving in Santa Barbara territory on its opening drive of the game when Jacob Nevarez came down with a leaping interception.

After punts on its first four possessions of the game, Santa Barbara was driving deep into Rio Mesa territory, but on second-and-two from the 18-yard line, Santa Barbara running back Koa Herrera fumbled, and Rio Mesa recovered.

With just seconds remaining before halftime, Jeffery Lechuga lined up for a 48-yard field goal, but it fell short and was caught by Rio Mesa wide receiver/defensive back Chance Harrison about one yard into the end zone. 

The play should have been called dead after the ball was caught in the end zone, but Harrison instead returned the ball over 100 yards for what appeared to be a touchdown. The play was wiped out officially by a block in the back penalty, but it demonstrated Harrison’s explosiveness. 

The second half was a slog offensively as the Dons worked their way into field goal range with just less than a minute to play; however, Lechuga’s 48-yard attempt was blocked. 

Rio Mesa marched to the Santa Barbara 38-yard line with seven seconds to play, and quarterback J.J. Bittner’s heave into the end zone fell incomplete as the fourth quarter came to a close. 

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The Spartans were assessed an unsportsmanlike penalty on the final play of regulation, so Santa Barbara started the overtime on the 12-yard line. 

On the first play of overtime, Santa Barbara quarterback Abel Renteria rolled to his right and connected with Kai Mault, who broke free in the back corner of the end zone for the first touchdown of the game.

As per high school overtime rules, Rio Mesa got the ball at the Santa Barbara 25-yard line with an opportunity to match the score and go to double overtime or win the game with a touchdown and a two-point conversion. 

The Spartans marched the 25 yards on five plays and scored on a four-yard pass from Bittner to Henry Borjas. 

Rio Mesa went for the two-point conversion, but J’lin Wingo was turned away by a host of Dons at the one-yard line. Benicio Garcia Holland was one of the Santa Barbara players in on the final tackle.

“We knew they were going to do as much as they could to get in. We just had to give it our all on that one,” Garcia Holland said. “It took the whole team to stuff it, several players on the bottom and on the top, and we got them at the one.”

Renteria completed 19-of-24 passes for 143 yards and one touchdown. Nathan Barrios rushed nine times for 68 yards.

Santa Barbara is now on to its bye week and will take on Channel Islands in its next game on October 7.

Dos Pueblos, 27; Channel Islands, 0

Greg Tripathi kicked a 50-yard field goal late in the first half and the Chargers (3-3) snapped a three-game losing streak with the resounding victory.

San Bernardino, 48; Carpinteria, 7 

Talon Trumble connected with Sebastian Hernandez on a seven-yard touchdown pass for Carpinteria’s only score of the game.

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