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Dos Pueblos Prevails Against Santa Barbara in Battle for First Place

Chargers hold Santa Barbara to eight yards rushing on the game, remain undefeated in league play.

Dos Pueblos quarterback Jake Ramirez scrambles into the end zone on a five yard touchdown to give the Chargers a late lead. Click to view larger
Dos Pueblos quarterback Jake Ramirez scrambles into the end zone on a five yard touchdown to give the Chargers a late lead. (JC Corliss/ Noozhawk Photo)

The Dos Pueblos Chargers stuck to the same game plan they have all year, and experienced the same result.

Despite turning the ball over three times and giving up two defensive touchdowns in the first quarter, Dos Pueblos rode their offensive and defensive lines and took down rival Santa Barbara 31-19 on Saturday at La Playa Stadium to take over sole possession of first place in the Channel League.

The win was an extra special win for Dos Pueblos (8-1, 3-0), who fell to Santa Barbara 14-13 last year for the team's only league loss.

"Our kids were real fired up from last year," explained Dos Pueblos head coach Nate Mendoza. "We're a blue collar team. Their coach made some comments in the paper yesterday that got them even more fired up."

The Chargers jumped out of the gates hot, recovering an onside kick by Zach Guttentag and driving to the Dons' 20-yard line before turning the ball over on downs. The Chargers forced a quick three-and-out and were driving before Santa Barbara's defense struck.

Dos Pueblos quarterback Jake Ramirez bobbled the snap and Santa Barbara defensive end Jack Koceman scooped it up and rumbled 53 yards into the end zone to put the Dons on the board first, and send the Santa Barbara section of the crowd into a frenzy.

The Chargers recovered quickly, driving 60 yards on 13 plays and getting on the board with a Jesse Mollkoy 37-yard field goal.

Dos Pueblos forced another Santa Barbara three-and-out, featuring a huge sack of Santa Barbara quarterback Frank Gamberdella by Justin Padilla.

On the ensuing drive, Santa Barbara's Benjamin Carreno snatched a tipped pass out of the air and returned it seven yards for the Dons second defensive touchdown of the first quarter and a 13-3 Santa Barbara lead. 

Dos Pueblos finally found the end zone on the tail end of a long 12-play, 74-yard drive powered by running backs Eric Lopez and Rob Alfaro. Alfaro punched the ball in from two yards out with 8:04 remaining in the second quarter to bring the score to 13-10, which stood into halftime. Lopez and Alfaro combined for 151 yards on 30 carries for the Chargers.

Eric Lopez takes a handoff from Ramirez in Dos Pueblos’ win over Santa Barbara. Lopez carried the ball 13 times for 77-yards and hauled in one pass for 34 yards. Click to view larger
Eric Lopez takes a handoff from Ramirez in Dos Pueblos’ win over Santa Barbara. Lopez carried the ball 13 times for 77-yards and hauled in one pass for 34 yards. (JC Corliss/ Noozhawk Photo)

"Every week a different guy steps up," claimed Mendzoa. "I'm very proud of the way those guys ran the ball."

"We've been waiting for this game all year," said Alfaro. "It feels great to beat Santa Barbara."

Again, Dos Pueblos started the second half hot, driving 65 yards in eight plays and taking their first lead of the game on a 30 yard keeper run by Ramirez.

After trading punts for much of the third quarter, the Chargers would strike again with 1:54 left in the period on a five yard scramble by Ramirez that put Dos Pueblos up 24-13. Ramirez threw for 182 yards and ran for an additional 70.

Santa Barbara would respond only six seconds into the third quarter as Gamberdella hit receiver Bill Herrera for a 33-yard touchdown on a busted coverage by the Chargers. The Dons did not convert on the two point conversion attempt that would have made it a three point game. The touchdown was set up by an interception of Ramirez by Johnnie Coleman. Coleman also recovered a fumble deep in Santa Barbara territory. 

"John does a great job for us," explained Santa Barbara head coach JT Stone. "We were fortunate to get him to come out from basketball."

Gamberdella threw for 148 yards against the stout Dos Pueblos defense, connecting with seven different receivers.

Down five, Santa Barbara got the ball back with over seven minutes remaining in the game, and just as the Dons started driving the Dos Pueblos defense did what it does best.

They took the ball away.

Charger Alijah Grant stripped the ball away from a Santa Barbara receiver and took it 40 yards to the house to put Dos Pueblos up 31-19.

"That took the wind out of our sails," said Stone.

Nathan Beveridge sacked Gamberdella for a 12-yard loss on fourth-and-eight to seal the victory for the Chargers, who have won eight in a row.

"That is the strength of our team," Mendoza said of his offensive and defensive line. "We are going to ride that out."

Dos Pueblos held Santa Barbara to only eight rushing yards on the night, while earning 229 themselves. 

"We're a tight group," mentioned Alfaro. "We've been playing with each other for a long time and have a lot of experience."

With the victory, the Chargers clinched at least a share of first place in league play, while a win next week against rival San Marcos (1-8, 0-3) would clinch the division outright. Dos Pueblos walloped San Marcos 61-14 last year.

"Our kids showed great maturity, we have great leadership," said Mendoza. "That's why we were able to come out on top despite all those turnovers."  

Santa Barbara hosts Buena (3-6, 1-2) at La Playa Stadium on Thursday in a must-win game. A victory would clinch second place in the Channel League, but a loss would drop the Dons into a three-way tie for second with Ventura and Buena.

"This one hurts because it felt like we were right there and just didn't do our job," Stone claimed. "We'll go back, look at the film, and get better."

— Noozhawk sports reporter Christian Eckert can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports and @noozhawk. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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