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Water Polo

Santa Barbara’s Firepower Sinks Dos Pueblos, 14-10

Sawyer Rhodes scores 5 goals, and Dons win second rivalry game of the week

Chris Gaffney of Santa Barbara prepares to fire a shot against Dos Pueblos. Gaffney scored two goals. Click to view larger
Chris Gaffney of Santa Barbara prepares to fire a shot against Dos Pueblos. Gaffney scored two goals. (Javier Delarosa / Noozhawk photo)

Dos Pueblos goalie Ben Cable made a statement in the first period that he was going to make it tough for Santa Barbara High’s leading goal scorer Sawyer Rhodes.

The Dons’ response was, “No worries.” After being blocked three times, Rhodes put away five goals to lead six scorers, and Santa Barbara rolled to a 14-10 victory in their second Channel League crosstown boys water polo game of the week at home. They defeated San Marcos 14-9 on Tuesday. It was league opener for DP.

Cable was on fire early, stopping two point-blank shots and a penalty shot.

“The last couple of years I keep hoping he’s a senior but he keeps on coming back and driving us crazy,” Santa Barbara coach Mark Walsh said of Cable. “Ever since he was a sophomore I remember him playing big in big games and making big saves against good players.”

But the Cable and the Chargers couldn’t contain an experienced and cohesive Santa Barbara squad for four periods.

"I think we dodged a few bullets in the first quarter," DP coach Connor Levoff said.  "Cable blocked a couple of shots and they missed a penalty, and think we did some nice things to keep us in the game. I think we stayed competitive through the whole game.  We kind of let it slip a little bit in the third quarter, but we had a strong fourth quarter. "

After leading 3-2 at the end of the first period,  CIF-Southern Section Division 1 10th-ranked Santa Barbara (9-4, 2-0) stepped up its defensive pressure and speed and outscored the Chargers 4-1. Chris Gaffney got it going with a steal and a coast-to-coast effort for a goal. Jack Rottman drew a foul inside the 2-meter area and Rhodes buried the subsequent 5-meter penalty shot for a 5-2 lead. Cable stopped him in the first period.

 “The guys were feeling good from Tuesday, and if you’re scoring against San Marcos in a big game like that then you feel pretty good coming in here and taking some shots,” said Walsh. “I’m really glad the guys are continuing to shoot and the other players are looking to get them the ball in a lot of scoring opportunities.”

Evan Blix of Santa Barbara looks for an open teammate during the Dons’ 14-10 win over Dos Pueblos. Click to view larger
Evan Blix of Santa Barbara looks for an open teammate during the Dons’ 14-10 win over Dos Pueblos. (Javier Delarosa / Noozhawk photo)

One of those players getting scoring opportunities is Gaffney. He’s playing with loads of confidence after a tough season last year.

“It’s mostly my teammates, they really put their faith in me and tell me shoot all the time,” he said. “They help in practice regain my confidence because I was injured last year – I dislocated my kneecap – and then I suffered from an illness that took me out for a while. I kind of struggled to get back into shape back and shooting condition.”

He’s back at full strength, and Santa Barbara is reaping the benefits.

“Sawyer draws a lot of attention, which opens us up. That’s why we’re a great team because we complement each other,” said Gaffney.

Ethan Parrish found the net to keep DP close, but Rhodes answered with a pair of goals. He cut inside and finished a pass from Adam Gross and converted a penalty shot after he drew the foul.

Leading 7-4, Santa Barbara blew the game open in the third period with five goals by five different players. Connor O’Keefe scored from the perimeter, Rhodes banged one off the post and across the goal line, Evan Blix took a long pass from Rhodes and beat the goalie 1-on-1, Gaffney put away his second goal and Jacob Castillo finished a 2-on-1 break with Rhodes for a commanding 12-5 advantage.

Rhodes also had an impact at the defensive end, containing DP’s Dylan Elliott.

“Sawyer Rhodes has got the best length, speed and awareness to guard Dylan,” Walsh said. “I thought he did a great job with him.  Dylan is a great player, he’s crafty he gets shots off early. He’s a handful.”

The Dons were more than handful for the Chargers.

“We were countering them pretty hard. It really comes down to experience as a team. We played together really well,” said Gaffney.

"They're fast, they're experience and they're playing at a little higher level than us right now," Levoff said. "I think our inexperience shows in that realm as far as our anticipation and ability to get back and cover and erase those. It got better as the game went on but it was too little, too late."

Early in the fourth period, Blix took a nifty pass from Gross and drew a foul for another penalty shot. Gross did the honors and found the back of the net for a 13-5 lead. The two combined again in the period.

Dos Pueblos (5-6, 0-1) went on a four-goal run in the quarter to close the gap.

Parrish and Elliott led the Chargers with four goals each. Madison Montag and Jason Teng scored one. Cable ended up with nine saves.

For the second straight game, all six field players scored for the Dons, led by Rhodes. Gaffney, O’Keefe and Castillo each had two goals and Blix and Gross tallied one apiece. Gross played a solid all-around game, adding three steals and four assists to his stat line. Gaffney had two steals and Rhodes drew three ejections.

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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