Santa Ynez’s Nielsen knocks out Chargers

Nick Nielsen’s first varsity field goal tied a school record. It came a few plays after he made his first varsity interception. Later, he scored a go-ahead touchdown with a leaping grab in the end zone.

All good stuff, to be sure. But for the 6-foot-1, Santa Ynez High senior, the best was yet to come.

Nielsen poked away a pass in the final minute, leading to an interception by Tyler Piligian that sealed an 11-7 season-opening win over visiting Dos Pueblos.

“That was the best; that was really cool,” said Nielsen of the deflection, “because it meant I could celebrate a win with my teammates.”

Nielsen’s first quarter kick was a 47-yarder, tying the school mark for distance set by Bill Hawk in 1984.

“I tried a 52-yarder last year and came up about a yard short,” recalled Nielsen. “I hit 60-yarders in practice but this is the first kick I ever made on the varsity and it all comes down to the blocking.”

Nielsen, who also boomed some long punts, is much more than a kicker, however. He led the Pirates in receptions with six and shadowed 6-foot-4 Dos Pueblos receiver Matt Sessler for most of the night.

“Ever since summer, Nick has been a different player,” said Santa Ynez coach Josh McClurg. “He’s faster, stronger and has a better attention to detail.”

Sessler did get the best of him on one play, however, a long, jump-ball pass from Charger quarterback Leshon Bell that went for a 49-yard touchdown. That and Daniel Buratto’s PAT kick gave the Chargers a 7-3 lead at halftime.

But a 53-yard kickoff return by Dalton Deming gave Santa Ynez great field position to open the third quarter and the Pirates scored five players later when Nielsen made a sight adjustment on a long pass from Brock Dickey to get inside position and come down with what proved the winning points.

“Sometimes, you just can’t control irony,” noted McClurg.

Dos Pueblos coach Nate Mendoza undoubtedly appreciates the ironies of life and football, as well, but he also was left with a less than satisfying feeling of what might have been for his Chargers. In addition to missing two field goals after penalties helped to stall promising drives, the Chargers got bit by the cruelest of ironies, an inadvertent whistle after a fake so good it faked out the official.

Bell, a dangerous player on either designed or improvised runs, faked a handoff to Michael Botello that drew a pile of Pirates and left him running free on the right. An official, however, thought Botello had the ball and blew the whistle, stopping the play just as Bell broke into the open.

Officials had no choice but to place the ball where they deemed Bell to be when the whistle blew, roughly 12 yards from the line of scrimmage.

“I’m going to play that one back in my mind for a long time,” said Mendoza.

“All you can ever ask is to have a chance to win, and we did,” he added. We had our chances but didn’t execute. That guy (Nielsen) had a great game. Santa Ynez was hungry and played a great game.”

Bell led all ball carriers with 116 yards on 16 carries but McClurg felt that the Pirates had nonetheless done a good job of containment.

“We knew going in that to beat them, we had to contain him,” he said.

Santa Ynez linebacker Clayton Hanly had a more than a little to do with that, recording the Pirates’ only sack but also maintaining a lot of backfield pressure without losing outside containment. Like many players on the unusually warm night, Hanly suffered on and off with cramps.

“He’s a beast,” said McClurg. “We missed him as a lead blocker because he was cramping and we had to rest him on offense. But he did a great job on defense. Our sophomore corner, Daniel Gallardo, also deserves a lot of credit. He held up really well in a lot of man-to-man assignments.”

Austin Vreeland ran for 79 yards without benefit of any long gains, helping the Pirates to keep the Charger offense from getting too many chances.

“Our defense played exceptionally well,” said Mendoza. “If you hold a team to 11 points, you should win.”

Dos Pueblos 0 7 0 0 — 7
Santa Ynez 3 0 8 0  — 11

First quarter
SY_FG, Nielsen, 47, 6:51.
Second quarter
DP _ Sessler 49 pass from Bell (Buratto kick) 9:04.
Third quarter
SY_ Nielsen 22 pass from Dickey (Deming pass from Dickey) 9:45.

First downs       15   12
Rushes-yards 33-181   36-86
Passing yards 105   101
Total yards 286   187
Passes 6-25-2    11-17-0
Sacks 1-3   4-23
Fumbles 1-0   2-0
Punts 3-32   3-34
Penalties 9-65   6-60

RUSHING_DP: Bell 16-116, Davison 10-61, Welch 5-14, Ponce De Leon 2-(minus 10). SY: Vreeland 18-79, Barrick 4-12, Chaves 4-5, Dickey 10-(minus 10).
PASSING_DP: Bell 6-25-2-105. SY: Dickey 11-17-0-101.
RECEIVING_DP: Sessler 1-49, Kanen 2-30, Randmaa 2-17, Buratto 1-9. SY: Nielsen 6-58, Vreeland 1-12, Deming 1-2, O’Neil 1-16, Goodwin 1-6, Gallardo 1-7.
MISSED FIELD GOALS_DP: 33 (s), 42 (s).