OXNARD — Opening Channel League play with consecutive trips to the Oxnard area had different results for the Santa Barbara High School football team.
The Dons bounced back from last week’s last-minute loss at league-favorite Pacifica by routing fellow contender Oxnard 47-7 at Houser Field on Friday.
Abel Renteria passed for four touchdowns — three to sophomore Kai Mault — and ran for another as Santa Barbara (3-1) evened its Channel League record to 1-1. The Dons, who haven’t played a home game since their season opener, will return to Peabody Stadium next Friday to face Ventura (3-1, 2-0).
“When we found out what our schedule was like, we were actually excited about it,” Santa Barbara coach J.T. Stone said. “It’s good to get all the heavyweights out of the way early. It aligns us where we need to be playoff-wise.
“This is something we wanted and something that we really embraced.”
The Dons used three interceptions to take a quick lead. Andrew Tobin got the first one to set up their first touchdown. Renteria ran it in from eight yards out with 8:56 still left in the first quarter.
“That was our power-stretch play,” Stone said. “Abel is a big guy and he runs that play very effectively. He’s what makes us go.”
Two more interceptions turned the game into a rout. Daniel Mora returned the first one 60 yards for a TD barely two minutes after Santa Barbara’s first score. Chas Rosales’ run off a designed shift on the PAT tacked on two more points.
Jacobo Nevarez intercepted the next one with 42.5 seconds left in the first quarter. Renteria cashed in the possession with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Tomas Gil on a bubble screen with 9:51 to go in the first half.
“The defense set the tone,” Stone said.
Oxnard responded with Eli Aragon’s 84-yard TD reception just two minutes later, whittling Santa Barbara’s lead to 22-7.
But the Dons turned their next play into a big one, as well. Mault found an inside seam in the Yellowjackets’ defense and the sophomore receiver took Renteria’s short pass 82 yards for a touchdown.
“Oxnard chose to live by the blitz, and it came back to bite them in the butt,” Stone said. “We screened them all night. Our slot receivers played well. They brought pressure and our kids executed against that.”
They also converted another two-point conversion, with Mault — last year’s junior varsity quarterback — throwing a pass to tight end Julian Castro to boost their lead to 30-7 with 7:33 left in the second period.
“When Kai Mault came to campus, the crazy thing is that I didn’t really know who he was,” Stone said. “I just saw something in the kid. He’s a tremendous talent. And he’s not only good at football, he’s great at baseball, too.
“He’s wired differently. He loves competition. When he steps on that field, it’s at 100 mph. He showed that tonight and played very, very well.”
Halftime didn’t slow down Renteria and Mault. They connected on a pair of long TDs in the first 83 seconds of the third period. The first went for 72 yards on the first play of the half. The second went 50 yards with 10:37 still left in the quarter to increase the Dons’ margin to 44-7.
Jeffery Lechuga’s 22-yard field goal completed Santa Barbara’s scoring with time still left in the third period. The 47-7 lead prompted officials to use a running clock for the fourth quarter.
“They brought pressure every flippin’ play,” Stone said. “We couldn’t run the ball tonight. But we’ve got so many great players at the skill positions that if you’re going to live or die by the blitz, you’re going to pay for it. They definitely paid for it tonight.
“We’re hoping to get back to running the ball a little more next week. Ventura is a very sound football team, but we always want to remain 50-50 if possible.”