The San Marcos and Dos Pueblos boys water polo teams paid tribute to sidelined DP freshman Cole Racich when the teams met in a Channel League game in early October. Racich has been sideline with medical issue. On Saturday, the crosstown rivals will clash for the CIF-SS Division 2 title at the Elings Aquatic Center. (Lily Chubb / Noozhawk file photo)

San Marcos and Dos Pueblos have used the same ingredients to reach the CIF-SS Division 2 boys water polo championship: great defense and goalkeeping.

The crosstown rivals will put those ingredients to the test against each other in an all-local title game on Saturday at 5 p.m. at the Elings Aquatic Center on the DPHS campus.

The CIF-SS will be charging admission to the final. Digital tickets can be purchased online on GoFan here.

San Marcos goalie Sam Rich and the defense in front of him have been stellar over the past month. They have held opponents to single digits in their last eight games, including a 13-6 semifinal win over Portola on Wednesday.

Dos Pueblos’ defense and goalkeeper also have played at a high level during the season’s final weeks. Goalie Reggie Robles was spectacular in Wednesday’s 10-9 semifinal win against second-seeded Ventura.

Robles made four of his 14 saves in the second overtime, including one off his face, to protect the lead.

The Chargers have played tremendous defense in front of him, holding three of their last four playoff opponents under 10 goals and containing high-scoring attackers like Merrick Giles and Owen Fonua of Ventura and Arcadia’s Jaden Joemtree in the quarterfinals.

Saturday will be the third meeting this season between the rivals. San Marcos won the previous two games, 10-6 during the regular Channel League season and 12-6 in the league tournament semifinals.

Both teams made huge steps in reaching the final after falling in the semifinals last year. They have done a great job spreading the ball around and getting several players involved in their attacks.

Dos Pueblos in particular has stepped up after losing talented freshman Cole Racich during midseason due to a medical issue.

Both teams paid tribute to Racich before their league game at San Marcos in early October, with players writing Racich’s cap number 5 on their chests. DP players continue to do it.

Each team hasn’t been to a CIF title game in a long time. San Marcos last played for the title in 2003, losing against Santa Barbara in an all-local final. The Royals have one title in their history and it also came in a crosstown game, a 10-8 win over Santa Barbara in 1994.

They were coached by Scott Brennand, who later turned to officiating water polo and continues to call games.

Coach Peera Sukavivatanachai will be coaching in his first final.

Chris Parrish, who like Coach Peera is a San Marcos alum, will be making his third CIF boys final appearance at Dos Pueblos. He coached the Chargers to back-to-back titles against Santa Barbara in 2004 (5-4) and 2005 (13-5).

Parrish also coached the Dos Pueblos girls to a Division 1 title in 2011.

The Chargers boys last played in a final in 2017 under coach Connor Levoff, when they lost 9-7 against La Serna.

Saturday’s game marks the first CIF Water Polo Championship played at the Elings Aquatic Center since that momentous 2018 Division 1 girls final between Dos Pueblos and San Marcos. The Royals won in a 4-3 thriller.

That February event, attended by more than 1,000 fans, served as part of the community’s healing process following the horrific Montecito mudslides in January of that year.

Now, the Dos Pueblos and San Marcos boys take the stage in a history-making community event.

Barry Punzal is a Noozhawk contributing writer, and was for many years Noozhawk's sports editor. He can be reached at bpunzal@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.