PREP FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Santa Barbara Dons

Santa Barbara High has a tradition of wearing gold uniforms and changing its nickname to the Golden Tornado when it makes the CIF playoffs in football.

That last happened in 2008.

To remind his players of the program’s rich football history, first-year coach and SBHS alum Doug Caines has his team training in gold practice jerseys and pants.

“We’re looking to do good things this year and looking to wear the gold jerseys at the end of the year. That’s what we’re aiming for, nothing less,” said senior quarterback Shawn Ramos, who will be starting behind center for the third year.

The Dons have all the ingredients to challenge for a league championship and return to the playoffs:

Experience—More than 10 seniors have been starting since they were sophomores.

Play makers—Junior running back Cheroke Cunningham dazzled during his sophomore year, rushing for 1,143 yards and 16 touchdowns. Senior Emilio Gonzalez will be playing in his 21st varsity game when the season opens. At 6-3, 220, he is a Division 1-caliber player. The guys on the offensive line have 2 to 3 years of varsity experience. On defense, Efren Sanchez had a league-best six interceptions last year; outside linebacker Jason Jimenez is a big hitter and covers a lot of ground.

Size—The offense line averages 225 pounds.

Hunger—The seniors have paid their dues, going 2-8 and 5-5 the last two years; they are ready for a breakout season.

“We’ve got all the potential in the world,” Caines said. “I think everyone is aware we have a lot of returning guys. We’re not taking anything for granted; you can have all the potential in the world and not actualize it.”

Caines said having so many experienced players on the squad is like having coaches at every position.

“My linebacker who will be starting his 21st varsity game, is coaching up the guy behind him and the guys side by side,” he said. “It’s rare you have a kid with that much game experience. We’re very lucky and it makes the learning curve a lot easier to have those guys on the field.”

Caines said the offensive line is the strength of the team.

“From there, that makes everybody a weapon, meaning, when our O line starts to block, we have a great running back who looks even better. Same thing with the passing game; we have a three-year starting tight end, a three-year starting quarterback and three-year wide receiver. They all get to shine a little more because that offensive line has two- or three-year starters as well as two great seniors.”

Santa Barbara enters the season with high expectations and Caines is making sure the team doesn’t get caught up in the hype and stays focused.

“All we have is talk,” he said. “We were 5-5 last year and I make no secrets about we were three plays away in the fourth quarter of three games from being 8-2, and we’re no better than that now. We can go 5-5 and maybe go 8-2, it comes down to execution and work ethic. I work really hard on instilling the culture of discipline. That type of mentality and paying attention to details will hopefully make us an 8-2 football team as opposed to a 5-5 team again.

“We have gold practice uniforms to remind the kids of what it’s all about,” he added. “We got to earn everything. We’re not going to bring out the gold jerseys just for fun.”

TEAM BREAKDOWN

Last Year’s Record: 5-5, 3rd place in Channel League

2012 Schedule: CLICK HERE

Key Returners (Year, Position, Height, Weight): Offense—Shawn Ramos, Sr. QB, 5-10, 166; Emilio Gonzalez, Sr. WR/OLB, 6-3, 220 (all-league in 2011); James Stevens, Sr. CB/WR, 5-11, 170; Jalen Commodore, Sr. OL, 6-0, 223 Matt Escobar, Sr. DL/OT, 6-1, 255; Jesse Alcantar, Sr. DL/OG, 6-0, 228; Cheroke Cunningham, Jr. RB/DB, 5-11, 182 (all-league in 2011); Alex Mendez, Jr. DL/OG, 6-1, 254. Defense—Jason Jimenez, Sr. OLB/TE 5-11, 205 (all-league in 2011); Efren Sanchez, Sr. FS/WR. 172; Carlos Orozco, Sr. DT, 5-10, 225; Rudy Corrales, Sr. MLB/FB, 5-7, 176.

Promising Newcomers (Year, Position, Height, Weight): Jonah Iwanga, Jr., RR/CB 6-0, 172; Jordan Guzman, Jr., RB/DB, 5-10, 163; Mitchell Barrett, Sr., DL, 6-2, 221; Nick Demarest, Sr, OLB, 5-11, 205; Canyon Gutierrez Jr, ILB, 5-9, 188

Strengths on offense: Offensive line, QB, tight end, Z reciever, running back

Strengths on defense: Outside linebacker, Saftey, Defensive line

OUTLOOK: With over 15 returning starters, many of wholm will be starting their third varsity season, we have been working hard with great potential. We remain humble and recognize that potential is just that … potential. We will not sneak up on anyone this year, and need to work extra hard to better last year’s record and earn a playoff berth. With many returners, there is competition at all positions and hopefully the cream will rise to the top. The transition of head coaches has been made easier as the entire staff essentially stayed in tact and we did not have to re-tool.