The Dons celebrate the victory following the game-clinching defensive stop. (Lily Chubb / Noozhawk Photo)

Santa Barbara High flag football came away with a two-point conversion stop as the final seconds came off the clock to secure a 14-12 victory over Dos Pueblos in front of an electrified Peabody Stadium crowd on Thursday.

With 31 seconds left and the Chargers down 14-6, Dos Pueblos quarterback Gianna Nichols found Katie Peterson in the back of the endzone for a touchdown to cut the Dons’ lead to 14-12.

Needing a two-point conversion, the Charger offense backed up to the 10-yard line and drew up a play. After snapping the ball, Nichols couldn’t find an open defender and her pass fell to the turf, sending the Santa Barbara sideline into a frenzy.

The win clinched a city championship for the Dons, who defeated both Bishop Diego and San Marcos High earlier in the season.

“The whole team played well,” Santa Barbara coach Gabe Renteria said. “I wanted to win this for the seniors… I’m so proud of them.”

The first drive of the game was an eventful one, as Dayzia Mendoza led the Dons’ offense all the way down the field until they were five yards from the goal line. 

On the next play, Dos Pueblos’ Maddy Jones jumped in front of Mendoza’s pass and secured an interception, a sign of the defensive battle to come in the first half.

It was such a defensive battle, in fact, that the game was scoreless heading into halftime thanks to multiple turnovers on downs and tough stands by both defenses.

Santa Barbara’s Amaya Hernandez (left) reaches for Dos Pueblos’ Sterling Streatfield’s flag for the tackle. (Lily Chubb / Noozhawk Photo)

“I was proud of them,” Chargers coach Doug Caines said. “We stopped them as many times as we could on defense.”

Following a three-and-out by Dos Pueblos to open the second half, Mendoza and the Santa Barbara offense went to work. 

They marched their way down the field on an 11-play drive that was capped off by a 9-yard passing touchdown from Mendoza to Ale Alcocer Vasquez to take the first lead of the game.

Alcocer Vasquez ended the night with five catches for 75 yards.

Following the one-point conversion pass to Carolina Esparza, the Dons led 7-0 with 12:20 left in the game.

The Chargers offense then responded with a score of their own when Nichols dropped back and hit Ruby Streatfeild in the middle of the field. Streatfield then took off, leaving defenders in the dust and scoring a 45-yard touchdown to get right back in the game.

Dos Pueblos could not convert the extra point, leaving the score at 7-6 with 10 minutes to go.

“We had to battle back the whole game,” Caines said of his offense.

The Dons would not be outdone, as their offense swung right back with another scoring drive, this one ending on a 7-yard strike to Izzy Garofalo, extending the lead to 14-6 following an extra-point reception by Jaz Gordon with 3:00 left.

Katie Peterson (left) celebrates the last-minute touchdown for the Chargers. (Lily Chubb / Noozhawk Photo)

“Dayzia was super composed and gave what was given to her,” Renteria said of his quarterback.

Mendoza ended 21-of-35 for 204 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Her counterpart, Nichols, completed 13-of-18 passes for 140 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Nichols and the Charger offense then got their chance to tie it up or win the game, and following the huge touchdown by Peterson, couldn’t convert the potential game-tying two-point conversion.

“Our execution wasn’t where it needed to be and they played the game of their season,” Caines said. “We needed to play up to that level and we didn’t.”

The fiery matchup brings an end to the cross-town matchups in the first-ever CIF girls flag football season.

“It’s been a blast to be a part of this, it’s been a magical return to football,” Caines said of the season. “It’s been truly a blessing to coach young athletes again.”

Renteria concurred with Caines, mentioning the competitiveness of the Channel League in its inaugural season.

The Dons’ sideline celebrates following a catch by Carolina Esparza (14). Esparza had six catches for 45 yards on the night. (Lily Chubb / Noozhawk Photo)

“I think that the Channel League has the best teams, we all beat each other in super close games,” Renteria said. “It’s very competitive and it’s only going to grow, I’m super excited [flag football] is in the Olympics now.

“I’m all for it, especially for these girls. These girls watch football with their pops, their cousins and their friends and it’s very important for them to come out and play.”