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Dos Pueblos Wins Share of League Title, Playoff Vote

Defense, QB Kellen Roberts have huge games in 28-21 victory over Ventura

Dos Pueblos quarterback Kellen Roberts celebrates as running back Irvin Miguel scores the go-ahead touchdown on a 2-yard run in the third quarter. Click to view larger
Dos Pueblos quarterback Kellen Roberts celebrates as running back Irvin Miguel scores the go-ahead touchdown on a 2-yard run in the third quarter. (JC Corliss / Noozhawk photo)

The Dos Pueblos football team picked itself up from a low-point of the season, stayed positive and won a share of the Channel League championship on Friday night in Ventura.

Michael Elbert caught a touchdown pass from quarterback Kellen Roberts and intercepted two Ventura throws in the end zone, including a final toss with 2.3 seconds left, leading the Chargers to a 28-21 victory at Larrabee Stadium in the regular-season finale.

The result left Dos Pueblos, Ventura and Santa Barbara tied for first place at 3-1. With only two automatic CIF playoff spots available from the five-team league, a vote by the five principals and athletic directors was needed to determine what two teams would get in.

Dos Pueblos (8-2 overall) and Ventura (7-3) won the vote and will advance to the playoffs as league No. 1 representatives in their respective divisions. Dos Pueblos is in Division 10 and Ventura in Division 5. Santa Barbara (5-5) will apply for an at-large bid in Division 9.

The CIF playoff pairings will be released on Sunday.

Friday's uplifting victory came three weeks after DP suffered its most heart-breaking defeat of the season, a 14-13 decision against Santa Barbara on homecoming night.

"Just to rebound from Santa Barbara, the worst loss any of us have experienced, to just come back shows the character of our team," said Roberts.

"We played strong last week, too," DP coach Nate Mendoza said. "It’s a tribute to the guys' character. They could have packed it up and thrown it away after that SB loss — probably the toughest loss I’ve ever been a part of – but it shows the character.

"We came back and practiced harder that week against San Marcos and had an ever better week of practice this week. It showed out there, they wanted it bad and we came out hot and the defense played outstanding."

Michael Elbert waits for Ventura’s desperation pass to fall into his arms for an interception with 2 seconds left in the game. Click to view larger
Michael Elbert waits for Ventura’s desperation pass to fall into his arms for an interception with 2 seconds left in the game. (JC Corliss / Noozhawk photo)

Dos Pueblos’ defense stepped up big time against a potent Ventura squad. Besides Elbert’s two interceptions, linebacker Chris Noggle recovered a fumble and the defense made a big stop on running back Angel Moreno on Ventura’s final drive, keeping him in bounds at the 35, which allowed the clock to keep moving.

"We believe in our D," said Mendoza. "We decided we're going to get them to use all their time outs. It’s tough to move the ball down field against a good defense with no time outs."

The Cougars got off one more play and quarterback Jack Gutierrez heaved the ball into the end zone. Elbert played it like a center fielder and made the pick to clinch the huge victory. 

The Chargers contained speedy running back Broc Mortensen and held the Cougars to just two offensive touchdowns. Their other score came on an interception return.

Elbert made a terrific interception in the first quarter to deny Ventura from drawing first blood in the game. The junior raced about 20 yards to make the outstanding defensive play and keep the game scoreless.

"We could have lost momentum there," Mendoza said. "Instead of being down 7-0 we got the pick and we ended up scoring first, which is big. You’re on the road and these guys haven’t lost in league since 2012. We’d been stressing that all week. We want to knock them off. They are a great program and we’re happy to get that first league win against them."

The Chargers stopped Ventura on its next drive and the Cougars missed a 43-yard field goal.

Dos Pueblos’ offense finally got going late in the first quarter. Irvin Miguel broke off a 33-yard run to set up the first score of the game. Roberts hit Elbert for 10 yards and went back to him for an 18-yard touchdown strike. Zachary Guttentag booted the PAT for a 7-0 lead with 5.1 seconds left in the first quarter.

Ventura responded with a 12-play, 68-yard drive, capped by a 15-yard touchdown pass from Gutierrez to Ian Mckenzie. Rourke Rieman’s PAT tied the score at 7-7.

The Chargers went three and out on their next possession, and Ventura put together another long drive. Gutierrez completed six passes on the drive, finishing it with a 20-yarder to 6-foot-5 tight end Brandon Gooding, who plowed over DP defenders for a 14-7 lead.

Dos Pueblos would not be deterred. Roberts, utilizing all of his offensive weapons, engineered a 13-play, 80-yard drive for the tying touchdown. He fired a 24-yard pass to Cyrus Wallace, who made a circus catch in the end zone while being tightly guarded.

"What a catch that was," Roberts raved. "He caught it on the guy’s back."

Said Mendoza: "Our kids could have buckled when we fell down 14-7, but we responded with that phenomenal catch by Cyrus,  one of the best catches I’ve ever seen on that sideline. That gave us momentum going into the locker room and our kids came out hot and scored those two touchdowns in the third quarter."

The Chargers reclaimed the lead early in the third quarter after Noggle recovered a fumble on the Ventura 17. Miguel scored on a 2-yard run to put DP ahead 21-14 at the 10:40 mark of the quarter.

The DP defense continued making it tough for the Cougars to move the ball.

"I'm real proud of coach (Doug) Caines, I’m so happy to have him. He’s done a great job with the defense," said Mendoza.

When the Chargers got the ball back, Roberts went back to work, completing 7 of 8 passes on a 64-yard drive. He finished it with an 8-yard scoring strike to Elbert, giving DP a 28-14 lead against the three-time defending league champions.

Roberts completed 27 of 40 passes for 223 yards.

Everything seemed to be going the Chargers’ way after they stopped Ventura short on a fourth-and-7. But Ventura’s defense came up big to get the Cougars back in the game. Gavin Blanks read a pass into the left flat, picked it off and returned it 28 yards for a touchdown, cutting the DP lead to 28-21 with 51 seconds left in the third quarter.

The Cougars stunned DP again in fourth quarter on a fake punt, with Moreno racing 14 yards for a first down on the Chargers 34.

But DP’s defense came through on the next fourth-down situation, as Josh Feldhaus and Noggle held Gutierrez to 1 yard on a fourth-and-seven run from the 31.

Ventura got one more crack at a tying touchdown, driving from its 20 to the DP 35. Sam Drew broke up a pass in the end zone and Erwin and Tommy Johnson wrapped up Moreno and, more importantly, kept him in bounds with the clocking winding down.

Elbert sealed the title win with his interception.

"I can’t describe it," said Roberts of finishing on top. "It’s such a great feeling to be on the winning side of this for once."

Mendoza was pleased how his players responded after the Santa Barbara loss.

"We told the kids every championship team goes through some hardship during the year. We had a lot of things go our way for seven games. It happens to championship teams. You show character and bounce back and these kids have shown that."

Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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