Is this the year of ending droughts for the Santa Barbara High football team?
The Dons took care of one by winning their first outright Channel League title since 2001.
Now comes the task of putting to rest a long winless streak in the CIF playoffs.
When they put on their traditional post-season Golden Tornado uniforms and take the field Friday night for a Division 8 playoff opener against Cerritos-Gahr, they’ll be looking to win a playoff game for the first time since 1989.
Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. at San Marcos.
“We’re trying to get out of the first round of the playoffs,” coach J.T. Stone said earlier in the week. … We have another task at hand. Channel League is there, now let’s get out of the first round. We’re going to bust our butts and make sure that happens so we can keep playing.”
Bishop Diego, Dos Pueblos and Lompoc are the other area teams in the playoffs.
Bishop Diego has the tough task of playing at top-seeded and undefeated Culver City in Division 5; Lompoc travels to third-seeded Glendora in the same division, and Dos Pueblos plays at Crespi in Encino in Division 6.
Santa Barbara (8-2) is the No. 2 seed in Division 8 and enters the playoffs on a five-game winning streak. Gahr is 3-7 and lost its last two games 51-0 and 58-0. Those losses came against playoff-bound teams, Warren and Paramount. Paramount is the top seed in Division 4 and Warren is in the Division 6 playoffs.
Six of Gahr’s losses have come against playoff teams.
“Don’t let 3-7 fool you. They are a good football,” warned Stone of the Gladiators. “They are a comparison to Pacifica, but they’re not Pacifica. They can easily come down here and beat us if we don’t play our ‘A’ game, if we don’t practice hard this week. If we don’t do everything we need to do to win this game, it’s going to be difficult.”
Gahr, which went 1-4 in the San Gabriel Valley League, has speed on offense, but it has struggled defensively, allowing 337 points.
The Gladiators will face a Santa Barbara offense that has become more multi-dimensional this season. The running of Ty Montgomery, Justin Perez and quarterback Deacon Hill has been very effective in moving the chains and complementing Hill’s cannon-like passing arm.
Santa Barbara’s defense has been flying all over the field. It held Dos Pueblos without an offensive touchdown in last week’s Channel League championship game in Santa Maria.
It’s true that a team with a 3-7 record from a league in the L.A. area can be deceiving. But this Santa Barbara team has jelled, is healthy and is goal driven.
It checked the box for league title and is determined to do the same for the first round of the CIF playoffs.
The Pick: Santa Barbara
Bishop Diego (5-5) at Culver City (10-0, top seed in Div. 5), 7 p.m. (Radio: AM 1290) — Look, it’s another highly ranked opponent for Bishop Diego football. The Cardinals have been playing them almost every week. Culver City, however, might be the most athletic opponent of them all.
Said coach Tom Crawford: “Culver City is very athletic, with tremendous athletes combined with lots of experience — a quarterback, for example, has started since frosh year; several kids have D1 offers, which is a reflection of their individual talent level. They are dynamic on offense, with a pass-first mentality, and put up lots of points.”
The Cardinals will need to control possession, avoid turnovers and giving up the big plays.
That might be difficult for four quarters.
The Pick: Culver City.
Dos Pueblos (3-7) at Crespi (6-4), 7 p.m. — The Chargers played a strong defensive game against Santa Barbara and will need another one against a Crespi team that plays physical. The Celts like to run the ball.
“Crespi has a great running game, led by their tailbacks and quarterback,” said coach Doug Caines. “They have fast, athletic receivers and an equally athletic defense, with a very physical front six.”
The Chargers need their offense to produce points if they want to stay in this game.
The Pick: Crespi
Lompoc (7-3) vs. Glendora (9-1, 3rd seed in Div. 5), at Citrus College, 7 p.m. — The Braves expect to have Leondre Coleman and Oscar Tenorio back in the lineup. That gives them a good chance to pull off the upset.
The Pick: Lompoc