Big plays made the big difference in Friday night’s spring football finale between Lompoc and Santa Barbara High.
The visiting Braves scored on a fourth-down long pass just before halftime to retake the lead, twice thwarted Santa Barbara quarterback Deacon Hill on a fourth-down plays deep in their end and scored on a third-down swing pass that Sheldon Canley turned into a 66-yard clinching touchdown in a 19-9 victory.
The emotional win capped a perfect 5-0 (with a forfeit win) spring campaign for the Braves, while Santa Barbara finished 3-2 (with two forfeit wins).
Canley’s game-clinching score was electrifying as he showed off his power and speed. He caught the pass from quarterback Cavin Ross in the left flat and ran through a pair of Santa Barbara defenders before turning on the jets and bolting into the end zone with 2:19 left.
Two big plays preceded Canley’s score. The first came on a Santa Barbara fourth down from the Lompoc 29. Linebackers Adam Lazaro and Anthony Barragan blitzed Hill and force him into a desperate throw that fell incomplete.
“That was huge,” said Lompoc coach Andrew Jones. “In that situation, if we let Deacon sit back there, he’s going to pick us apart. So, to bring pressure was the key there. I thought Lazaro and (Gabriel) Navarette had huge games and obviously our secondary played well.”
The second big Lompoc play came as Santa Barbara rushed Ross and forced an interception. But Andrew Tobin’s pick was nullified as the Dons were called for a facemask penalty, giving the ball back to the Braves.
Another huge play for the Braves came right before halftime. Faced with a fourth and 14 at the Santa Barbara 34 and trailing 9-6, wide receiver Elijah Perkins got behind the secondary on a wheel route and Ross found him for the touchdown with a 18 seconds left in the half. Alex Alfaro’s PAT gave Lompoc a 13-9 lead.
Santa Barbara got a break on the first possession of the game as a Lompoc punt snap sailed over the punter’s head and he fell on the ball in the end zone for a safety.
After Lompoc kicked two balls out of bounds, the Dons’ Trent Williams returned the third one taken from the 10-yard line to the Braves’ 26. A holding penalty put the ball back to the 45.
The Dons, however, couldn’t capitalize as they dropped a pass in the end zone and ended up punting the ball away.
Santa Barbara had a couple more potential TD passes dropped in the game and had a 47-yard field goal fall short.
Lompoc capitalized after the missed field goal behind the running of Canley. He had runs of 21, 14 and 5 yards and capped the 80-yard, six-play drive with a 35-yard burst on a draw play for a 6-2 lead at 10:10 of the second quarter.
Santa Barbara countered with a 10-play 64-yard drive that featured a 22-yard run by Justin Perez and was aided by a Lompoc penalty. Hill followed Perez and scored the touchdown on a 3-yard run and Ty Montgomery’s PAT put the Dons back in front, 9-6, with 5:08 let in the half.
Santa Barbara’s defense did a good job of containing the potent Braves’ offense. It held them to a three and out on the next series. But emotions boiled over on the punt and a fight ensued.
Santa Barbara had two players ejected.
Once things calmed down, Lompoc’s defense took charge and stopped Hill and the Dons.
“Our defense played unbelievable,” said Jones. “We knew that the way they played against Santa Ynez, they weren’t going to play that way against us.”
But there some similarities from the Santa Ynez loss for the Don. Mainly, the dropped passes.
“We gave them that football game,” said Santa Barbara coach JT Stone. “We were locked in, we ran the ball well, but we just decided to drop a bunch of touchdown passes tonight and drop a lot of balls, which has been our Kryptonite all year.
“We had three touchdown passes dropped and it would have changed the game.”
Lompoc, meanwhile, made the big catches, like the bomb from Ross to Perkins for a 13-9 lead.
“Our defense played so well, but that one play shot us in the foot,” said Stone.
Santa Barbara put together a good drive to start the second half. Hill completed three passes, but had one dropped that would have resulted in a touchdown. On fourth and three from the 7, Robert Daniels of the Braves broke up a pass in the end zone to foil the Dons’ scoring threat.
The game ended the high school career of Hill, who is now headed to Wisconsin of the Big Ten.
“I think we shot ourselves multiple times,” he said of the game. “But I couldn’t ask for a better game to leave on. Riding with those kids as boys since I was in the fifth grade. Yeah, it’s been one hell of a crazy ride, but I think we’re finally starting to change the program around here. And I think I left my mark.”