Golden Tornado done in by Cathedral’s big plays, 28-23

Santa Barbara couldn?t have asked for a better start to its CIF football playoff opener on a chilly Friday night. The Golden Tornado got a defensive touchdown on the second play from scrimmage and scored another on their first offensive series.

But visiting Cathedral and its LSU-bound quarterback Hayden Rettig answered those scores and twice came up big in the second half to rally the Phantoms past Santa Barbara 28-23 in a Western Division first-round game at Peabody Stadium.

Runningback Rudy Corrales breaks a tackle and heads for a touchdown to put the Dons up 14-0 in the first Quarter. (James Crosby Photo)

?It?s that same old E word I always talk about ? execution,? Santa Barbara coach Doug Caines said. ?We had some great execution in the first half. In the second half, we had a few too many breakdowns.?

Rettig threw four touchdown passes, three to wide receiver Da?Mari Scott, including the eventual winning score on a fourth-and-22 play in the fourth quarter. Rettig completed 31 of 49 attempts for 336 yards to lead the Phantoms and deny Santa Barbara its first playoff win since 1989.

“There’s a reason he’s going to LSU. The kid has a frickin’ missile for an arm,” Caines said of the 6-4, 215-pound Rettig.

The Golden Tornado, the football team?s nickname in the CIF playoffs, came out on fire. On Cathedral?s second play after the kickoff, defensive lineman Jalen Commodore broke through the line and walloped running back Martaveous Holliday, forcing him to fumble. Commodore picked up the ball and ran 15 yards into the end zone for a touchdown.

The impact of that play carried over to the next series as Santa Barbara?s defense forced the Phantoms to punt. Starting at their 42, quarterback Eli Hale gained four yards on first down and then handed the ball off to fullback Rudy Corrales who broke into the backfield and kept going for a 54-yard touchdown run.

After less than three minutes into the game, the Golden Tornado were ahead 14-0.

Santa Barbara (8-3) had a chance to go up 21-0, but a linebacker dropped an interception with open field ahead of him.

Rettig made the Golden Tornado pay for that drop. On the same drive, he hit the speedy Scott for a 24-yard touchdown. A pass for a two-point conversion failed, leaving the Golden Tornado ahead 14-6.

On the ensuing kickoff, Santa Barbara got a long kickoff return by Cheroke Cunningham to the Cathedral 27. A penalty moved the ball back to the 37. Cunningham was seeing his first action after suffering a knee injury in the second game of the season.

After three penalties, the Golden Tornado got as far as the Cathedral 25. Matt Medina missed a field goal attempt from 41 yards.

Rettig then guided Cathedral to a touchdown and a game-tying two-point conversion. On third-and-seven, he threw a short pass to Scott, who turned it into a 34-yard touchdown. Rettig ran for the PAT to knot the score at 14-14 with 21 second left in a 30-plus minute first quarter.

Cathedral coach Kevin Pearson said playing from behind was nothing new for his team. He cited comebacks against St. Paul, St. Francis, Harvard Westlake.

“Our kids aren’t fazed by it,” he said. “That’s one thing, the character of our kids is awesome.”

The first half lasted nearly 90 minutes. There were a total of 17 penalties called, a couple of injuries and Rettig passed 29 times.

Rettig had Cathedral on the move again on its first possession of the second half, but the drive was halted when Jason Jimenez forced a fumble on Phantoms receiver Cameron Akins and recovered the ball at the Santa Barbara 34.

The Golden Tornado, however, couldn?t capitalize as Cathedral put pressure on Hale.

“This definitely was a defensive victory,” Pearson said. “It if wasn’t for the effort from them, it wouldn’t be close.”

Cathedral (9-2) took over and drove 64 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. The big play on the drive was a terrific catch by Akins on a pass that was tipped by Santa Barbara defender Efren Sanchez. Akins made a diving catch on the deflected ball for a 35-yard gain. The Phantoms got down to the 5, but a loss by Rettig and a couple of penalties pushed the ball back to the 21. On third and goal, Rettig threw a bubble screen to Akins and he raced into the end zone for a 21-14 lead.

Santa Barbara?s offense continued to struggle, and Cathedral took charge. Rettig hit Scott for a 39-yard gain and came back to his favorite target for a 37-yard touchdown to put the Phantoms ahead 28-14 with 11:39 left in the fourth quarter.

Cunningham ran another long kickoff return, giving the Golden Tornado the ball at the Cathedral 47. They got as far as the 33 and Medina came on and booted a 50-yard field goal, cutting the deficit to 28-17 with 9:47 left.

Santa Barbara?s defense stepped up and forced the Phantoms to punt. Freshman Brent Peus took over at quarterback and guided the Golden Tornado to a touchdown on a 47-yard post-pattern pass to James Stevens. Peus? pass on a two-point conversion try fell incomplete, leaving them down 28-23 with 6:44 to go.

Rettig made sure Santa Barbara never got the ball again as he guided the Phantoms on a clock-eating drive. The big play on the drive was a 19-yard scramble on a third-and-10 from their 41-yard line. Santa Barbara was also penalized 15 yards on the play.