Koa Herrera broke off a 17-yard run on the first play of the second quarter. | Credit: Victor Bryant

After sharing the Channel League title last season the Santa Barbara High and Pacifica football teams were well aware of the importance of winning their much-anticipated matchup.

The visiting Tritons seized the opportunity, snuffing out Santa Barbara’s second half comeback to claim a 28-15 in the Channel League opener for both teams.

“There’s not much to look for in a loss. We’re not looking for any comfort,” said Santa Barbara coach Nate Mendoza. “We kind of slept in the first half. {Sammie Congdon} woke us up with the big touchdown and unfortunately we lost him {to injury).”

Both teams came into the game banged up after physical non-conference games last week. The Dons were without starting cornerback Jordan Mitchum, wide receiver Tomas Gil and lost linebacker Chaz Rosales and Congdon in the first half. Pacifica was without running back Phillip Kim and wide receiver Savion Taylor among others. 

Key starters Sammie Congdon and Chaz Rosales were injured in the first half.

“I’m proud of our guys. This was a next man up game. Last week we had a physical game with St. Bonaventure and we kind of limped into this one,” said Pacifica coach Mike Moon. “I’m really proud of how we came into the game, scored and controlled it.”

Pacifica got on the board with 4:51 remaining in the first half on a ten-yard touchdown pass from Dominic Duran to Dayday Aupiu, who expertly dragged his feet near the pylon on third-and-goal from the ten yard line. 

Josh Joyner added to the Pacifica lead midway through the second quarter with a four-yard touchdown plunge. In the absence of Kim, Joyner was a workhorse for Pacifica and delivered in key moments. 

It appeared the Tritons might pull away for good when Joyner scampered into the end zone for the second time from nine-yards out with 2:20 remaining in the second quarter to take a 21-0 lead, but Santa Barbara responded with a 59-yard touchdown pass from Renteria to Congdon on the first play of its ensuing drive cutting the deficit to 21-6 going into halftime.

The Dons forced a punt on Pacifica’s first drive of the second half, but the kick was muffed and Pacifica recovered. However, the play was overturned by an inadvertent whistle. The dodged bullet gave Santa Barbara new life

Santa Barbara closed the deficit with a 31-yard field goal by Bode Fauskee with 3:41 remaining in the third quarter.

After a long Pacifica drive stalled Renteri and Kai Mault connected on an 80-yard touchdown pass that cut the deficit to 21-15. The ensuing extra point was missed. 

“I think it showed the kid’s heart and passion,” Mendoza said. “They could have packed it in. It would have been easy to, but they showed some true fight and heart to battle back.”

With the momentum on Santa Barbara’s side Pacifica was facing a 3rd-and-16 from its own 32-yard line when Duran dropped back and connected with Jaiden Ransom on a 33-yard pass over the middle. That play shifted momentum back in Pacifica’s direction.

“It was actually to my receiver Jaiden Ransom. I was looking to my left to Isaiah Dillon, I hoped he could beat them over the top, but I saw that he couldn’t,” Duran said. “My line opened up the pocket so that I could see perfectly and I saw {Ransom} uncover and just delivered it to him.”

Two plays later Duran hit Joyner over the middle for a highly-contested 18-yard catch. Budder Aina capped off the decisive drive with a nine-yard touchdown run with 4:33 remaining that increased the Pacifica lead to 28-15.

The Dons drove back down the field quickly, but stalled at the eight-yard line and turned the ball over on downs with under three minutes remaining. 

“It’s September 1. We have a long season ahead of us and we’ve got San Marcos coming in,” said Mendoza of his team’s outlook moving forward.

Pacifica improved to 3-0 with the victory and Santa Barbara dropped to 1-2.

Bishop Diego, 33; Bishop’s of La Jolla 30

Mays Pese scored a one-yard touchdown with 13 seconds remaining to put Bishop Diego ahead for good. The Cardinals picked up their first victory of the season. Oscar Mauia and Jaison Lotu scored two touchdowns apiece as the Bishop Diego rushing attack found its groove.

Rio Mesa, 46; San Marcos 7

An inspired first half kept the Royals close, but Rio Mesa poured it on in the second half, outscoring San Marcos 33-0. San Marcos will travel to Santa Barbara for the annual “Big Game” next week.

Buena, 39; Dos Pueblos 12

Dos Pueblos is without starting quarterback Ryan Marsh due to injury and suffered its first loss of the season. Danny Viduare scored two touchdowns in the loss. 

Carpinteria, 35; Channel Islands 6

Talon Trumble rushed for two touchdowns and passed for two touchdowns as the Warriors improved to 2-0 on the season. Carpinteria will host Calvary Chapel of Santa Ana next week.


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