Abel Renteria glides into the end zone in the first quarter. | Credit: ENTENZA

Kai Mault gathered a San Marcos punt at the 18-yard line, sliced his way through oncoming tacklers, weaved around vicious blocks and eventually broke free into the open field for an 82-yard touchdown return.

The electrifying play set the tone for a 35-0 Santa Barbara High victory over San Marcos in the 63rd annual Big Game on Friday night at Peabody Stadium. 

“I got the ball and just started running into blocks. The blocks lined up and the whole team did the play until the very end,” said Mault, who was named the 2023 Gary Blades Memorial Big Game MVP after sharing the award with quarterback Abel Renteria last season. “Downfield blocks are what made it possible for me to score on that play.”

Junior Kai Mault and Santa Barbara High coach Nate Mendoza celebrate with trophies post game.

Mault’s touchdown combined with a two-point conversion run by Abel Renteria gave Santa Barbara an 8-0 lead with 7:15 remaining in the first quarter. The Dons settled in from there after the teams traded turnovers to open the game, including an interception by San Marcos defensive back Jacob Murillo on Santa Barbara’s first play from scrimmage.

The Dons extended their lead to 14-0 after an eleven play, 71-yard drive that was capped off by a one-yard touchdown run by Abel Renteria with 2:03 remaining in the first quarter.

After a San Marcos muffed punt, Santa Barbara took advantage of the short field with a one-yard touchdown run by Mault midway through the second quarter.

A 32-yard touchdown pass from Renteria to Herrera with 34 seconds remaining in the first half gave Santa Barbara a 28-0 halftime lead.

Renteria was the engine that powered the Santa Barbara offense throughout the game as he finished with 105 yards rushing on 23 carries and two touchdowns. 

Koa Herrera rushed for 105 yards on 23 carries and two touchdowns.

The San Marcos defense stood tall in the second half holding The Dons to just one touchdown on a one-yard run by Herrera with 3:40 remaining in the game. But the Royals’ offense was disjointed throughout and finished with under 100 yards of total offense.

“The boys played outstandingly. Hats off to the defense. For a while there it seemed like their best play was a penalty. We kept giving them yards. I think it was 100 yards in penalties in the first half and we still didn’t give up a point,” said Santa Barbara coach Nate Mendoza. “It shows how great the defense was playing. I wish we had a little more discipline with regards to those penalties.”

Santa Barbara will host Oxnard on Thursday, September 14. San Marcos will travel to Pacifica on Friday, September 15.

Central Fresno, 48; Bishop Diego 28

The Cardinals led 14-7 at halftime, but couldn’t withstand a second half surge by Central Fresno. The Grizzlies scored 41 points in the second half, including 27 in the third quarter to pull away.

Calvary Chapel, 20; Carpinteria 19

The Warriors had an opportunity to win the game with a field goal attempt as time expired, but it was just wide. Carpinteria dropped to 2-1 on the season with the loss.


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