Santa Barbara High football made the most of its final tune-up before the CIF-SS Playoffs, dominating Buena on both sides of the ball en route to a 43-0 win on Friday at Peabody Stadium.
The win cemented a second-place finish in the Channel League for the Dons, who wrapped up the season with an 8-2 overall record and a league mark of 7-1.
“I’m really excited about how we’ve done for the first 10 games, but our goal is to be playing in December and we’ve got a long way to go,” Santa Barbara coach Nate Mendoza said. “Now it gets real, it’s exciting.”
The Dons will now have to wait until Sunday to learn their opponent and division for the CIF-SS playoff race.
“We don’t care who we’re playing, we’re still going to play SB football,” Santa Barbara quarterback Abel Renteria said. “When we’re playing our best, nobody can stop us.
“Whoever gets us in the first round and for the rest of the playoffs is going to have a tough opponent… We’re ready.”
Following back-to-back stalled drives to open the game, the Dons and Peabody Stadium received a jolt when DJ Wilson blocked a Buena punt to set up the offense at the Bulldogs’ 29-yard line.
The offense wasted no time taking advantage, as, following a 7-yard run by Kai Mault, Renteria floated a pass into the endzone for his wideout Jack Holdren, who rose up and came down with the contested catch.
Following a two-point conversion rush by Renteria, Santa Barbara was up 8-0 with 6:11 left in the first quarter.
The big plays continued in the Dons’ next offensive drive. After another forced punt, Renteria swung a pass out to Mault on a screen and the superstar wideout did the rest, scampering 65 yards down the sideline for the score.
Mault ended the night with three catches for 92 yards to go along with 22 yards on the ground.
Santa Barbara once again went for the two-point conversion, with Koa Herrera punching it in to take a 16-0 lead with less than two minutes left in the quarter.
Buena then responded with its longest drive of the day, running 12 plays and sending the game into the second quarter.
However, the 12th play of the drive swung the momentum back in the Dons’ favor as the pass was deflected near the line of scrimmage and defensive back Jordan Mitchum came down with it with 6:44 to go in the half.
On the second play of the ensuing drive, the Dons turned to another one of their electric offensive pieces as Herrera burst through the line of scrimmage and took a handoff 50 yards for the team’s third score.
This time, the two-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful, giving Santa Barbara the 22-0 lead.
As they did for the majority of the first half, the Dons’ defense forced another three-and-out to give the offense another chance to score before the end of the half.
They did just that, as Monty Lopez bounced outside and scored a 19-yard rushing touchdown that brought the lead to 29-0 following the extra point.
“We told the kids all week that this was round one and we treated it like a playoff game,” Mendoza said. “The boys came out on fire again, good effort on defense and offense.”
Sammy Lopez hauled in the Santa Barbara defense’s second interception of the night on the next drive, but the offense couldn’t put points on the board before heading into the halftime locker room.
Coming out of the half, Buena ran a successful onside kick, recovering the ball in Santa Barbara territory. However, the Dons’ defense picked up right where it left off and forced a three-and-out.
The offense followed that up with a 9-play, 69-yard drive down the field that was capped off by a 4-yard passing touchdown from Renteria to a wide-open Winston Bartley in the endzone.
The extra point made it 36-0 halfway through the third quarter.
Buena managed to convert a fourth down via a fake punt on the ensuing drive, but the Dons forced a turnover on downs just four plays later to stifle any momentum.
The Santa Barbara offense then turned to the running attack and, as the game leaked into the fourth quarter, Herrera followed a gaping hole left by the offensive line and took the run 34 yards into the endzone, capping off a 137-yard night on just seven carries for the running back.
Herrera’s second touchdown of the game made the score 34-0 and was the team’s fourth touchdown of 20 or more yards on the night.
The four touchdowns came from three different players.
“You feel pretty fortunate as a coach when you have offensive players like that,” Mendoza said of his playmakers. We’ve got a third-year quarterback that makes good decisions and a bunch of linemen that are returning from last year, so we’re in good hands right now.”
Renteria echoed that sentiment.
“We’re very blessed to have all of them,” Renteria said. “The ball could go to anybody and anything could happen.”
When all was said and done, the Santa Barbara offense put up 390 total yards, 232 on the ground and 158 through the air. Meanwhile, the defense held the Bulldogs to just 94 total yards of offense.
The Dons will face off against an unknown opponent next Friday for the opening round of the CIF-SS playoffs.
“Our message is that every team we’re going to play in the playoffs is going to be a good team, there are no easy ones,” Mendoza said. “We’re ready for the challenges, our boys know what it’s like to play in a playoff game.”