As the instrumental music director at San Marcos High, Michael Kiyoi and the Royals’ marching band have performed some impressive halftime shows at Warkentin Stadium under the Friday Night Lights.
The high school football season is still a few weeks away, but the Warkentin lights will be on Friday and Kiyoi will be there for a performance. This time as a professional ultimate disc player.
When he’s not teaching music or directing the band as member of the San Marcos faculty, Kiyoi is playing for the Los Angeles Aviators of the American Ultimate Disc League. His team will be playing its final regular-season game against the rival Oakland Spiders at 7:30 p.m.
The game is a fundraiser for the San Marcos Band.
Admission is $20 for adults and free for youth under 18 that are accompanied by an adult; those under 18 not accompanied by an adult are $8.
The Creekside Restaurant (4444 Hollister Ave. ) is hosting a pre-game party and Dargan’s in downtown Santa Barbara (18 East Ortega) is having a post-game event with the players and coaches of both teams.
This is a huge game for the Aviators as they are battling for a playoff spot in the West Division of the 25-team AUDL. They need to beat the Spiders by two goals and then hope Oakland loses its final game at the San Diego Growlers on Saturday to claim the third playoff spot in the division.
Kiyoi has been playing for the Aviators since 2015. He started his professional Ultimate career with the Spiders back in 2013 after graduating from UCLA, where he got serious about the sport.
His playing ability earned him a spot on the U.S. team for the World Beach Ultimate Championships in November in Huntington Beach.
Kiyoi said the idea of holding a professional game in Santa Barbara and using it as a fundraiser has been in the works for a few years. He talked with then school activities director Aaron Solis — now the athletic director at San Marcos — “about how cool it would be to have a game here. And, eventually, we made it happen,” he said.
“We talked to the ownership of L.A. the league, the ownership of Oakland and it just made sense. They can get down to Santa Barbara pretty easily.”
The Aviators normally play their home game at Occidental College in Los Angeles.
The game of Ultimate has a proud history in Santa Barbara. UCSB has a renowned club team known as the Black Tide, which started in the mid-1980s has won multiple national championships.
But the game goes back even further. The Santa Barbara Condors started in 1974 and became the first national champions in the sport in 1977. They repeated in 1978 and won again 1981.
In the 90s, the Condors were national runners-up in ’98 and ’99 and place third at the world championships in ’99. The team won back-to-back national titles again in 2000 and 2001 and captured a silver medal at the World Championships in 2004.
Kiyoi played for the Condors in 2007 while he was attending UCLA.
“That was when some of the Santa Barbara legends were toward the end of their careers,” he said. “It was a great experience. They used to have the Lady Condors, too, and there are a couple of women still in town that played for them. Getting to know them kind of helped make me who I am as an ultimate player.”
The Aviators roster includes four other players with Santa Barbara ties. Nate Kirchofer played for the Condors while attending grad school at UCSB in 2010; Aaron Weaver got his start in the game at UCSB and played for the Condors from 2011-2016; Ian Ladner was a member of the Black Tide and has played and coached in the area for 11 years, and Marcel Osborn honed his skills with the Black Tide.
The field for AUDL games is 53 yards wide and 120 yards long, with the end zones 20 yards deep.
The sport provides constant action. A regulation game has seven players per team running and defending all over the field. They play four 12-minute quarters with a running clock until the last two minutes of the first half and the end of the fourth quarter.
Kiyoi said the game features “the best parts of football, soccer and basketball. It’s fast like all those sports but with way less downtime than football. And there’s a ton of scoring like basketball.”
Each goal, or a catch by an offensive player in the end zone, is worth one point.
Last week in Fremont, the Spiders rallied to beat the Aviators 20-19 in overtime.
“You’re gonna get 20 goals on a side,” said Kiyoi. “Sometimes you’ll score in two passes or sometimes you’ll score in 20, so the sport has a lot of variety in it.
“Every point is unique. There’s no point where it’s like, ‘OK, it just saw that. It’s wow! That’s incredible; I can’t believe that.’”
Friday’s game can be considered one of the more unique fund-raising events, and Kiyoi promises it will be entertaining.
“It’s going to be super fun,” said Kiyoi. “I guarantee, full promise, that people who have never seen Ultimate and come out to watch will not be disappointed.”