They were fierce battles with athletic, skillful players slamming bodies or cutting one another down, and the coaches yelling at each other across the field.
Besides the rivalry factor, another element that made these games special was the contrasting styles of play.
And, when they faced each other, a Channel League title was usually on the line.
Soccer players from Santa Barbara and San Marcos will mix it up again on Saturday in a tripleheader of alumni matches at Peabody Stadium. The day kicks off with a men’s 35-over contest at 2 p.m., followed by a women’s game at 4 and an open division men’s match at 6 p.m.
There will be a fiesta atmosphere with food and a live music.
Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for youth. The proceeds will benefit the soccer and athletic programs at both schools.
Back in the 1990s, the Santa Barbara-San Marcos rivalry was the big soccer show in town. Abe Jahadhmy coached the Royals and he won by playing a direct style, hitting long balls to physical, athletic forwards on top or speedy wingers. That was in total contrast to how the Dons played.
Whether they were coached by Joby Nunez, Pat Butler, Rudy Ybarra or Todd Heil, Santa Barbara’s Dons built their attack by playing quick-touch soccer, knocking the ball around on the pitch.
Regardless of the style, both programs have enjoyed success.
Jahadhmy guided San Marcos to a CIF Southern Section title in 1998. Ybarra took the Dons to a title in 1995 and Heil’s teams won CIF-SS crowns in 2001 and 2010 and a State Regional championship in 2011. In its history, Santa Barbara has won seven CIF titles.
Jahadhmy, now San Marcos’ athletic director, has fond memories of the matches against Santa Barbara
“It was a lot of fun and a war, he said. “Keep in mind this was before UCSB became prominent and club was not as important. Being that both teams were very good and had contrasting styles and demographics, it made for very interesting games. It was the best soccer show in town.”
He added: “The games were fast, exciting and fans were into it if they liked soccer or not. I remember Bob Purdy (former Dons basketball Coach) telling me that he did not follow soccer or knew much about it, but enjoyed watching that game. He said he never realized how fast it was.”
While the competition on the field was intense, Jahadhmy said “at the end of the games there was no animosity and the coaches always got together for a drink.”
Saturday’s alumni games will feature CIF and County Players of the Year, members of CIF championship teams, players who starred in college and a player who competed in the Olympic Games.
Santa Barbara alum Alma Martinez, a County of Player of the Year and former UCSB standout, played for the women’s national soccer team of Mexico in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece.
Greta Shirdon, Martinez’s high school teammate, was the Big West Goalkeeper of the Year for Cal Poly in 2003.
The San Marcos women’s side includes Brenna Zimmerman and Kelley White, members of the Royals’ 2006 CIF championship team.
In the men’s 35-over match, Santa Barbara’s team includes two-time CIF player of the Year and CIF winning coach Rudy Ybarra and Alfonso Guzman, considered the Godfather of Santa Barbara High Soccer. He helped get the sport started at the school in 1972. He’ll be joined by Peter and Gus Guzman. Also on the Dons team is Luis Alcaraz Cuellar, one of five brothers who wore the Olive and Gold.
The San Marcos team includes Ryan Fell, who went on to play at UCSB and is now a CEO for a local company, local dentists Rob Brennan and Erik Wipf, and Alfredo and Beto Moreno.
The Royals’ open division squad features James Kiffe, one of the school’s top goal scorers. He went on to start at UCSB and got a tryout with the San Jose Earthquakes of Major League Soccer. Also on the roster are Russell Brown, who started as a defender for UC Davis, and Ken Newendorp, an All-CIF midfielder who is the only player to play at all three colleges: SBCC, Westmont and UCSB.
The Santa Barbara roster includes brothers Marco, Junior and J.P. Ybarra; Dana Weymouth, the 1999 County Player of the Year; Sean Edwards, a four-time all-league and all-CIF selection; Aaron Lopez,a member of the 2001 CIF championship team, who scored the winning goal for UCLA in the 2002 national championship game; Jesse Gonzalez, the 2010 CIF Player of the Year, and Sanford Spivey, who led the Dons to their first CIF State Regional title in 2011 and now plays at Boston University.