Dons put it all together in 31-21 victory over Pacifica

Santa Barbara’s timing couldn’t be better.

In their last football game before the start of Channel League play, the Dons put together their best all-around performance and beat a talented Pacifica team 31-21 on Friday night at Peabody Stadium.

It was their second straight win and leaves them with a 3-3 record.

Sophomore running back Cheroke Cunningham led Santa Barbara’s offense with a career-best 203 yards rushing on 33 carries and three touchdowns, and junior quarterback Shawn Ramos orchestrated a balanced attack, passing for 117 yards and running for 77.

The Dons defense was stellar against a Pacifica team that had two slick playmakers in running back Dennis Taylor and quarterback Nick Davis. The defense held each player under 100 yards rushing, intercepted Davis three times and caused a fumble.

“They played both sides of the ball,” Santa Barbara coach Jaime Melgoza said of his team. “The defense played great and the offense ran the ball great. I think all around, we played good football.”

Efren Sanchez picked off two passes deep in Santa Barbara territory in the first half. The first one was a spectacular catch at the 2 while falling backwards. The second he picked off at the 12 and returned it to the 43.

“I was just in good position and I made a great play on the ball,” said the 5-6 Sanchez.

Daniel Newton pounced on the fumble in the second quarter and Fernando Arrellano intercepted Davis in the fourth quarter.

What made the night gratifying for the Dons was the offense capitalized after each turnover.

Santa Barbara used a mix of Cunningham runs and Ramos passes to move the ball 98 yards after Sanchez’s first interception. Cunningham finished the drive by following his blockers up the middle for a 28-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead at 1:31 of the first quarter.

Cunningham praised his offensive line.

“They were incredible. They came out ready to play,” he said.

The Dons went up 14-0 after Sanchez’s second interception.

A penalty put the ball back at their 27 but it didn’t matter as Ramos pulled off three big third-down conversions to keep the drive going. He took off for a 12-yard gain on a third and 3, hit Emilio Gonzalez for 25 yards on a third and 21, found Gonzalez again for a first down on third and 10 and ran five yards on third and 1.

“When I drop back and I see a hole, I take it,” said Ramos about his running out of the pocket.

Cunningham finished the drive with a 5-yard run behind the left side of the offensive line, putting Santa Barbara up 14-0 at 4:10 of the second quarter.

The Dons got the ball right back as they gang tackled Taylor and forced a fumble. Newton recovered at the Pacifica 37. Three plays later, Cunningham ran behind the right guard for 12 yards and his third touchdown of the half.

Santa Barbara tried to surprise Pacifica (2-3) with an onside kick, but the Tritons recovered and had good field position with 2:50 left before halftime.

Starting at the Dons’ 46, the slick Davis used his legs and arm to get the Tritons on the scoreboard. He threw a beautiful 17-yard strike to Derion Fallejo for the touchdown with 40 seconds to go.

The touchdown didn’t faze the Dons. They came out in the second half, took the kickoff and marched 80 yards for a score. Cunningham started the drive with a 31-yard run on first down. Rudy Corrales and Bradford Jellison crossed up the Tritons’ defense with some big runs. Corrales scored from the 1 for a 28-7 advantage.

Pacifica answered with a Davis 11-yard bullet to Fallejo to cut the Dons’ lead to 28-14.

The Tritons recovered a fumble on Santa Barbara’s next possession and appeared to gain the momentum. But the Dons’ defense stepped up and forced a three and out. Jellison delivered a big hit after a swing pass to Ricardo Vasquez and Sanchez followed  with a breakup of a long pass intended for Dvonte Willis.

“This is the best defense I’ve ever play on,” said Jellison, a senior linebacker.

The defense came up big on Pacifica’s next possession. This time Arrellano picked off Davis.

The Dons converted the turnover into a 22-yard field goal by Matt Medina for a 31-14 lead.

“Our offense gave the ball to Santa Barbara too many times in the second half,” Pacifica coach Donnie Rea said. “If we had not done that, it would have been closer. We might have won it. Even though they were much for physical than us, we had a chance to win it if we had just taken care of the ball.”

Taylor and Davis led the Tritons to a late touchdown. The two combined on a 4-yard pass for the score.

Santa Barbara has a bye next week before opening Channel League play with the Big Game against San Marcos on Oct. 15.


Pacifica…0 7 7 7 — 21

Santa Barbara…7 14 7 3 — 31

First Quarter

SB — Cunningham 28 run (Medina kick), 1:31

Second quarter

SB — Cunningham 5 run (Medina kick), 4:10

SB — Cunningham 12 run (Medina kick), 2:51

P — Fallejo 17 pass from Davis (Murillo kick), :40

Third Quarter

SB — Corrales 1 run (Medina kick), 8:44

P — Fallejo 11 pass from Davis (Murillo kick), 7:11

Fourth Quarter

SB — FG, 22 Medina,

P —Taylor 4 pass form Davis (Murillo kick)


  1. oscar medina says

    Great job O-Line.  That’s the way to give the team a chance to win.