Santa Barbara High football coach JT Stone shuffled players around and found the right mix to see his team win its first game of the season on Friday night.
Frank Gamberdella played at quarterback and threw a pair of touchdown passes in the first half, and the Dons controlled the ball for most of the second half to escape with a 13-10 non-league victory at Channel Islands.
Gamberdella started at quarterback over Jeremiah Nicholson, who played wide receiver and safety on defense. Gamberdella showed toughness as he overcame a pair of sacks by CI’s Wallace Tagata and led the Dons to a touchdown. A 13-yard scramble followed by a 15-yard Raiders’ penalty put the ball at the CI 15. Three plays later he hit Natani Drati for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
Drati just returned to the lineup after an injury.
Channel Islands responded with a 65-yard drive, capped by Michael Barker’s 6-yard TD run.
Santa Barbara took a hit on the drive as senior Donovan Zavaleta was injured and was taken off the field in an ambulance. He is the latest senior to go down with an injury. The Dons have lost wide receiver “Tick” Jellison and defensive end Colton Takis, both all-league players.
On the ensuing kickoff, Drati turned on the jets and returned the ball to the Channel Islands 20.
An illegal motion penalty nullified a Gamberdella TD pass to Nicholson. But the quarterback went right back to Nicholson and they combined on a 25-yard touchdown for a 13-7 lead with 15 seconds remaining in the first half.
Channel Islands drove to the Santa Barbara 10-yard line late in the third quarter, but the Dons’ defense held and the Raiders settled for a 22-yard field goal, making the score 13-10 with 1:31 left.
Santa Barbara did a good job at keeping the ball behind the running of Ruben Velez and Brandon Pineda. The Dons limited the Raiders to only 19 plays in the second half.
The Raiders had one last chance at the win after stopping the Dons on fourth down at the CI 12. Raiders quarterback threw a long pass that Santa Barbara defensive back Angel Velasquez picked off at the 50-yard line.
Santa Barbara ran out the clock and celebrated its first win.