Santa Barbara High’s football team turned unlikely into reality on Friday night.
The Dons, down four points and without possession while the clock ticked past 1:20 in the fourth quarter, found a way to defeat Centennial Bakersfield 24-21 much to the delight of the homecoming crowd at Peabody Stadium.
“We were able to gut it out,” said Dons head coach Doug Caines, whose team is 4-1 on the season. “Defense stepped up and made a huge play, offense finished it off and we were able to hold at the end.”
Huge play indeed.
Jason Jimenez’s 10-yard touchdown run with 62 seconds remaining came on the first offensive play following an incredible forced fumble by the defense deep in Golden Hawk territory.
Santa Barbara’s victory seemed unlikely just seconds earlier, as Centennial held a 21-17 lead and possession. On a 2nd-and-18 running play, the Dons defense burst into the backfield and forced the fumble that was recovered on the Golden Hawks’ 10-yard line, allowing Jimenez the opportunity to punch in the Dons’ final touchdown that won the game.
“I’m the defensive coordinator. We practice that. We plan for that. We expect to get the ball and we did that tonight,” Caines said.
The fumble came right after Centennial committed its 14th penalty.
“It’s a game of opportunities,” said Golden Hawks head coach Bryan Nixon. “They took advantage of opportunuties. We didn’t take advantage of opportunities and we killed ourselves with the little things.”
Shawn Ramos and James Stevens had hooked up for two touchdowns earlier in the game, which Santa Barbara led 17-7 at halftime. Stevens had two catches in the first half for 68 yards, the first being a 55-yard deep ball that Ramos guided into Stevens hands without him breaking stride.
“I knew I beat that guy. I turned my head around and the ball was right there so I was happy,” Stevens said.
Ramos found Stevens again in the second half for another big gain of 40 yards.
“Me and him connect a lot,” said Stevens about the chemistry with his quarterback.
For Centennial, quarterback Reagan Enger rushed for two touchdowns in the game. The first – a 20-yarder – gave the Golden Hawks a 7-0 lead. The second gave his team the lead again at 21-7 after a Olivas Coleman PAT.
Andrew Daugherty made some noise with a 55-yard punt return for a touchdown on Centennial’s first possession of the second half.
“We’re a young football team that’s getting a little bit better and our league is really tough so we have one more week to get everything ironed out and do the little things right,” Nixon said.
Centennial (1-3) faces Tulare Union at home next week. Santa Barbara (3-1) will travel to Pacifica in Oxnard.