Dakota Hill dives into the end zone for a Santa Barbara touchdown in the first quarter. Hill caught a pass from quarterback Deacon Hill. (Isaiah Valenzuela photo)

Another Golden Tornado warning went up late Friday night.

After a 30-year drought,  Santa Barbara High’s Golden Tornado football team won a CIF-SS playoff game and advanced to the quarterfinals next week.

The Golden Tornado, the team’s moniker when it makes the playoffs, blew past Gahr, 44-0, in a Division 8 first-round game at San Marcos’ Warkentin Field.

It was a statement-making performance by a team that has achieved two of its goals this season —capturing the Channel League outright for the first time since 2001 and winning the program’s first playoff game since 1989.

“It’s amazing,” said quarterback Deacon Hill. “We’ve been talking about it since the beginning of the season of breaking that 30-year curse. “Coming into the game, our whole team was mentally prepared. They knew what we had to do. I think it was the best game we executed by far.  it’s one of our best games passing, running, all that stuff.”

Coach J.T. Stone said this group deserves all the accolades.

“We’re just extremely honored for these guys that they now get to put their names in Santa Barbara history,” he said. And, you know, we’re not done yet.”

Santa Barbara quarterback Deacon Hill prepares to throw the ball while being rushed by a Gahr defender. Hill passed for four touchdowns in the CIF playoff victory.

Santa Barbara quarterback Deacon Hill prepares to throw the ball while being rushed by a Gahr defender. Hill passed for four touchdowns in the CIF playoff victory. (Isaiah Valenzuela photo)

The next step is a quarterfinal game at Palm Desert next Friday. Palm Desert beat Temescal Canyon, 34-14, and won a coin-flip for the home game.

That shouldn’t matter to this Santa Barbara team. It’s been road warriors all season.

Santa Barbara’s balanced offense and ferocious defense completely overwhelmed the Gladiators (3-8) like a tornado.

Deacon Hill threw four touchdown passes, two to Dakota Hill; Justin Perez and Robert Boynton ran for scores and Joshua Rosales scored for the defense by recording a safety.

The Golden Tornado led 37-0 at halftime, which allowed the second half to be played with a running clock.

Santa Barbara (9-2 and the No. 2 seed in the division) was ready for this night from the get-go. Gahr opened the game with an onside kick, but Johnny Valencia was alert and pounced on the ball at the 42-yard line.

“Molina (defensive coordinator Ralph Molina) told me to be ready and I was ready,” said Valencia, whose father played on the 1989 team. “He said, ‘We’re going to switch you to the middle (on the kickoff receiving team) because they’re going to onside kick.’ So I was expecting that.”

On first down, Justin Perez ran off left tackle, burst into the open field and took the ball 42 yards down to the Gahr 13. He carried again for 10 yards and finished off the opening possession with a 3-yard touchdown.

“That’s what he does. He’s been doing that ever since youth football, he sets the tone for the first few plays,” Deacon Hill said of Perez. “Just to have him do that kept the momentum for the whole game.” 

Ty Montgomery kicked the first of his six PATs for a 7-0 lead just 56 seconds into the game.

Moki Nacario eludes a Gahr defender after catching a pass.

Moki Nacario eludes a Gahr defender after catching a pass. (Isaiah Valenzuela photo)

The Golden Tornado defense then made a statement. After Robert Fuentes gained seven yards on first down, Valencia stormed into the backfield and buried wide receiver Daniel Mitchell for a 6-yard loss.

“Our defense is amazing this year,” Valencia said. “We have a bunch of returners and we all just want it. It’s different this year than the last couple of years, I feel. We have a good team and we all want the same thing — get that ring.”

Santa Barbara forced a punt and Deacon Hill and the offense struck again. Hill shook off a sack on a Gahr blitz and hit Moki Nacario on a screen pass for 11 yards. He then threw to a wide-open Montgomery for a 36-yard touchdown with 7:09 left in the quarter for a 14-0 lead.

Valencia, playing in beast mode, was punishing Gahr ball carriers. He had another tackle for loss on a third-and-8 play.

Deacon Hill and the offense continued to have their way. He fired to Jackson Gonzales for 24 yards and hit Dakota Hill in the flat and watched him shake and bake.

“I was going to run but I heard the sideline screaming, so I was like, ‘Oh, someone must be open down field,” said Deacon Hill of his decision to throw to Dakota Hill.

Dakota Hill juked a pair of defenders before powering his way into the end zone on a 13-yard play for the third TD of the first quarter.

“I don’t know what it was, I was in the moment and it was all quick,” said Dakota Hill of the moves.

The defensive plays from Saloman Manzanarez, Valencia and Noach Wood forced Gahr into a three and out to start the second quarter, and the Golden Tornado offense responded with another Hill-to-Hill touchdown pass.

Santa Barbara Golden Tornado celebrates their first CIF playoff victory since 1989. pic.twitter.com/0DQ1QTsWTU

— NoozhawkSports (@NoozhawkSports) November 9, 2019

On second and 2 from the Gahr 21, Deacon Hill threw a fade that dropped into Dakota Hill’s arms in the left corner of the end zone for a 28-0 lead at the 7:23 mark.

“It was a perfect ball,” Dakota Hill said. “That was all Deacon. He put it right there on the money. All I had to do is just open up the basket.”

Dakota Hill made a nice catch and run on defense, too. He intercepted a pass and returned the ball to the Gladiators’ 34 before being brought down by his face-mask.

The Golden Tornado were unable to capitalize on the turnover and penalty, as Gahr stopped Deacon Hill at the 1 on fourth down.

The defense, however, ended up scoring points as end Josh Rosales tackled Gahr running back Myles Chancellor in the end zone on first down for a safety. That made it 30-0 with 1:47 left before half.

“Most of the night they had their motion guy coming around, so I knew they were going to sweep it and he was going to run it back inside,” said Rosales of the play. “Once I saw number 2 take the ball I just shot in and tackled him for the safety.”

Rosales gave props to Valencia and the entire defense.

“Forty-five, that’s my guy. That’s my day one right there,” he said. “Defense, I think we’re under the radar a little bit because we have a high-flying offense. But definitely our defense, we got a goose egg tonight, so hopefully we can keep it going.”

Dakota Hill hauls in a fade pass from Deacon Hill for a TD and a 28-0 lead over Gahr in CIF playoff win. The Dons won 44-0 pic.twitter.com/cdYPM9y2DR

— NoozhawkSports (@NoozhawkSports) November 9, 2019

The Gladiators kicked off and Santa Barbara scored quickly on a Deacon Hill pass to Gonzales that covered 44 yards. His run was dazzling as he broke tackles and carried defenders into the end zone for a 37-0 lead with 1:06 left.

A 31-yard run by Gonzales set up the final score in the fourth quarter. Running back Robert Boynton got five carries on the final drive and scored on a 2-yard run with 11:13 left.

The Santa Barbara defense held Gahr to 47 total yards.

“This means a lot because we’ve been waiting on this class,” Rosales said of the playoff win. “We’ve all been playing together since we were young, so it’s pretty exciting to break the curse that’s been around for 30 years.

“Our goal is to win a CIF championship. This is step one. Let’s just keep moving on, taking it game by game.”

Noozhawk Sports Editor Barry Punzal can be reached at bpunzal@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Deacon Hill hits a wide open Ty Montgomery for Santa Barbara’s second TD of the first quarter pic.twitter.com/jHanxlvJSi

— NoozhawkSports (@NoozhawkSports) November 9, 2019

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Barry Punzal, Sports Editor

— Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at bpunzal@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.