Santa Barbara High quarterback Abel Renteria and wide receiver Kai Mault connected early and often as the Dons overcame an inspired defensive effort by San Marcos, to win the 62nd annual Big Game, 26-7, on Friday night at Warkentin Stadium.
Renteria and Mault shared the Gary Blades Big Game MVP award as Mault finished with 10 catches for 157 yards. Renteria added a two-yard touchdown run and nine-yard touchdown pass in the first half.
“We’re all good enough to get open, it just happened to be me tonight,” said Mault of his huge game receiving. “It could have been any of us: Jack (Holdren), Winston (Bartley), Tomas (Gil), Jaden (Reath), literally just could have been anybody.”
San Marcos was locked in defensively, especially early in the game. The Royals stuffed Santa Barbara on 4th-and-2 from the eleven-yard line and the two teams remained locked in a scoreless tie until Renteria powered into the end zone with 3:30 remaining in the second quarter to give Santa Barbara a 7-0 lead.
We played hard. We had a good game plan and the kids stuck with it,” said San Marcos coach Ralph Molina. “We had a good week of practice defensively and I just knew we were going to come out and play hard.”
The game turned on Santa Barbara’s last possession of the first half. The Dons took over on the 30-yard line and marched 70 yards on eleven plays. Renteria connected with Holdren on a nine-yard touchdown pass just inside the pylon with two seconds remaining on the clock, and Santa Barbara took a 13-0 lead into the locker room at halftime even though the game felt much tighter.
“They came out and played hard. We felt like we had some missed opportunities,” said Santa Barbara coach J.T. Stone. “Our goal was to be league champs and they did that.”
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The Dons finished in a three-way tie atop the Channel League along with Rio Mesa and Pacifica at 7-1. However, Santa Barbara finished with a better overall record than both of those teams at 9-1. Rio Mesa and Pacifica both finished 8-2 overall.
Santa Barbara opened the second half with a nine-play, 63-yard drive capped off by a two-yard touchdown run by Nathan Barrios to increase the lead to 19-0 after a failed two point conversion.
Barrios added a five-yard touchdown run with 4:48 remaining in the fourth quarter to put Santa Barbara ahead 26-0.
However, San Marcos avoided the shutout with a 34-yard touchdown pass from Josh Engel to Andre McCullough, who snuck out of the backfield on a wheel route and beat the Santa Barbara defense over the top.
McCullough had a tough night running the ball against a dominant Santa Barbara defense, but likely concludes his San Marcos career with back-to-back 1,000 yard rushing seasons and has garnered interest from Division 1 football programs.
San Marcos has applied for an at-large berth into the playoffs, but will not likely not receive one after finishing sixth in the Channel League and carrying a below .500 overall record at 4-6.
Santa Barbara will receive an automatic berth into the playoffs and projects to be in division four. The CIF Southern Section will release brackets on Sunday.
Bishop Diego 49, Simi Valley 28
Qu’Ran Gossett put together one of the best performances in the history of the Bishop Diego football program with a school record 406 yards on 15 carries and six touchdowns. The Cardinals (7-3 overall, 3-2 Marmonte League) clinched third place and an automatic berth into the playoffs with the victory.
Hueneme 35, Carpinteria 21
The Warriors finish 4-6 overall and 1-3 in the Citrus Coast League.