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Wednesday, December 12 , 2018, 6:43 am | Fair 43º

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Santa Barbara High Football Preview

Dons are a tight-knit, talented group that is used to winning

Jeremiah Nicholson finally gets his chance to run the show for the Santa Barbara High football team.

After two years of primarily playing defensive back — earning first-team All-Channel League honors last year — and being the back-up quarterback to school record holder Brent Peus, Nicholson will be calling the signals full-time for the Dons.

Santa Barbara senior wide receiver Chris “Tick” Jellison looks to lead the Dons offense in 2016. Click to view larger
Santa Barbara senior wide receiver Chris “Tick” Jellison looks to lead the Dons offense in 2016. (Blake DeVine / Noozhawk file photo)

"I've played quarterback my whole life," he said. "I feel back at home on the other side of the ball."

Nicholson, a member of the CIF championship basketball team last winter, has quick feet and will use them to scramble and pick up yards on the ground.

"He's an athlete," coach JT Stone said of the senior. "There's a lot of schools looking at him as a free safety but he's a quarterback and we feel he's just as viable as Brent. We're going to do somethings differently because he's an athlete."

Dynamo wide receiver Chris "Tick" Jellison said the offense won't miss a beat with Nicholson at the controls.

"He's a different type of quarterback, which brings different opportunities and it almost changes the offense," Jellison said. "I'm really excited about it. It's going to be an explosive offense."

The offense took a hit earlier in the week when Jellison went down with an ankle injury, with the same ankle that he broke in last year's San Marcos game.

Jellison was expected to have surgery on Friday, the same day the Dons open the season at Saugus. He's expected to be out six to eight weeks.

"We're still going to be all right," Stone said. "I feel for Tick. It's his senior year. My heart goes out to him."

The Dons are tight group as many of them have been playing football together since they were little kids.

"I feel like we have a lot of experience because a lot of these kids have played together for a long time," Stone said.

Jeremiah Nicholson is a dual-threat quarterback. Click to view larger
Jeremiah Nicholson is a dual-threat quarterback. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

"It's an eclectic group of characters," said Jellison. "We've been together for a super long time. I grew up playing with Jeremiah and everyone on this team, so I feel we have a really good bond."

Jellison's hands can definitely bond with a football. He is fearless as a receiver.

"You talk about the ultimate competitor and the ultimate team player, having the leadership of Tick is huge," said Stone. "He brings so much to the table. He's our heartbeat. He's our energy."

Another strength of the Dons is their offensive line. Led by veterans Daniel and Edwin Rivera (no relation), Abe Barraza and Emmett Reese, Santa Barbara should be improved running the football.

The defense will be led by returning second-team all-leaguers Colton Takis at defensive end, middle linebacker Henry Hepp and defensive back Donovan Zavaleta.

A look at the Santa Barbara Dons:

League: Channel
CIF Playoff Division:  9
Head coach: JT Stone

Assistant coaches: Poncho Renteria, head assistant; Jaime Melgoza, defensive coordinator; Mark Unzeta, OL; Rolando Arambula, OL; Chris Versola, TE; Shane Klopp, RB; Paul Ross, WR; TJ Jordan, QB; Bob Brown, DL: Mike Arellano, DL; Dave Stott, LB; Herb Welch, DB.

Returning starters: Colton Texis 6-4, 220, Sr., DE (2nd Team All-League); Henry Hepp, 6-1, 224, Jr., MLB (2nd Team All-League); Angel Velasquez, 5-11, 180, Sr., FS/CB; Donovan Zavaletta, 5-6, 140, Sr., CB/WR (2nd Team All-League); Christopher Jellison, 5-10, 175, Sr., WR/SB (First Team All-League); Jeremiah Nicholson, 6-1, 192, Sr., QB/FS (First-Team All-League);  Jonathan Orozco, 5-11, 220, Sr., NG/DT;  Edwin Rivera, 6-1, 216, Sr., OT/DT (2nd Team All-League); Emmet Reese, 5-8, 200, Sr., OG; Abe Barraza, 5-10, 245, Sr., C/NG; Daniel Rivera, 6-2, 275, Sr., OT;  Robert Tovar, 5-10, 200, Sr., TE/WR.

Promising newcomers: DB Dallas Reddick 5-8, 180, Jr., CB/WR; Natani Drati, 6-2, 173, Jr., WR/SS;  Frank Gamberdella, 5-11, 145, Soph., WR/QB; Jeremiah Phillips, 6-0, 185, Soph., WR; Jesse Garcia, 5-10, 215, Soph., MLB.

Projected offensive starters: QB Jeremiah Nicholson, RB Ruben Velez, WR Matthew Cordero, WR  Angel Velasquez, WR Robert Tovar, WR Jeremiah Phillips, OT Edwin Rivera, OT Daniel Rivera, C Abe Barazza. G Emmet Reese, G Jonathan Orozco.

Projected defensive starters: FS Angel Velasquez, SS Tony Montalvo, DB Donovan Zavaletta, DB Dallas Reddick, LB Henry Hepp, LB Esteban Solis, LB Ben Badillo, DE Colton Texis, DE  Joseph Jimenez, DT  Jonathan Orozco, DT George Lara.

Coach Stone Comments: I think we have a more explosive offense just with some of the guys we have and the guys coming up, so I feel like we're going to be in position to score some points. And the defense is going to be improved. ... For us, everything starts in the offensive line. We've done a lot of work to get better there.

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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