Harper’s big runs spark Dons to 41-28 victory over Pacifica

Santa Barbara High's Jordan Guzman  gets brought down by a Pacifica' defender. (Wade the Giant photo)

Santa Barbara High’s Jordan Guzman gets brought down by a Pacifica’ defender. (Wade the Giant photo)

The no-huddle offense was clicking for the Santa Barbara High football team on Friday night.

Running back Ramon Harper rushed for 221 yards on 10 carries and scored on three long touchdowns runs; Cheroke Cunningham ran for 117 yards and two TDs, and quarterback Brent Peus threw for 202 yards and a score, leading the Dons to a 41-28 win over Pacifica on Homecoming night at Peabody Stadium.

Harper had touchdown runs of 68, 62 and 81 yards for Santa Barbara. The 62 yarder gave the Dons a huge lift after they squandered a 28-14 lead in the third quarter.

Pacifica quarterback Mike Moraga hit 6-3 wide receiver Deondre Vines on a post pattern that Vines turned into an 86-yard touchdown play. The Tritons then recovered a pooch kickoff and scored one play later on a 33-yard Moraga strike to Vines. Vines caught nine passes for 221 yards

On the Dons’ next possession, a fired-up Pacifica had them at fourth-and-2 at their 38. They went for it, with Peus handing the ball off to Harper, who busted through the defense for a 62-yard go-ahead touchdown.

“I just went out there and did what I had to do,” said Harper. “The linemen were making a good hole, I just saw it and took it.”

“It was unbelievable,” said Peus of watching Harper break off the long touchdown runs. “We finally established a run game this week and he played a great game. And not all the runs were straight shots. He had to work for them. The line did a great job opening up holes for him. They played a great game.”

Peus played a solid game running the high-tempo offense. Relying mainly on short passes, the sophomore completed 18 of 23 for 202 yards and one touchdown to Jonah Iwanaga during a 21-point second quarter.

“I Love it,” Peus said of the no-huddle offense. “The tempo, especially in that second quarter, absolutely killed them. They couldn’t keep up. If we execute and keep our tempo going, they can?t keep up. It?s not possible.”

“The style of football we play is beautiful for Santa Barbara,” said coach Doug Caines.

The Dons have two fine running backs in Harper and Cunningham ? the “smash and dash,” as Caines called them.

Cunningham played a strong game at running back. He ran for 117 yards on 19 carries and scored on 4-yard and 27-yard runs.

Santa Barbara High's Russell Endholm makes an interception before the half against Pacifica. (Photo Wade the Giant)

Santa Barbara High’s Russell Endholm makes an interception before the half against Pacifica. Endholm picked off three passes in the game. (Photo Wade the Giant)

On defense, Russell Endholm came up big defending against Vines. He picked off three passes intended for the big receiver, including one in the end zone.

That pick set up Santa Barbara’s first score, a 68-yard run by Harper at the 10:16 mark of the second quarter. Harper showed great patience on the play, looking for the opening and then blasting through it.

The running of Harper and Cunningham delighted Peus.

“Last week, we rushed for Literally less than 20 yards,” he said. “If (opponents) drop everyone in the coverage, we?re not going to have much of a passing game. This week, we threw a lot of short passes, too, but the running game was there and it makes everything so much easier in the offense.”

Santa Barbara missed the PAT, leaving it behind 7-6. Pacifica took advantage of two major penalties to score its first TD on a 1-yard run by Moraga in the first quarter.

The Dons took the lead on their next possession, with Cunningham fighting his way for the final four yards. Peus hit Jordan Guzman for a 2-point conversion and a 14-7 lead.

Pacifica (1-4) was on the move again, but Endholm thwarted the Tritons with an interception at the 23-yard line.

Vines got the Tritons even when he intercepted a pass and returned it 32 yards for a touchdown with 2:15 left in the first half.

Peus drove Santa Barbara 65 yards and capped the drive with a 12-yard pass over the middle to Iwanaga with 11 seconds left in the half. That gave the Dons a 21-14 lead.

They expanded it to 28-24 on their first possession of the second half. Cunningham broke free and ran 27 yards for the score.

Then came the nightmarish part of the game for Santa Barbara. Moraga found Vines open on a post pattern and the receiver went 86 yards for a touchdown. The Tritons recovered a pooch kickoff and Moraga hit Vines for a 33-yard score, its second touchdown in 19 seconds, knotting the score at 28.

Santa Barbara regrouped and regained control of the game. Harper scored on a 62-yard run and then Iwanaga picked off a Triton pass at the Dons’ 15.

Harper completed the scoring with his electrifying 81-yard jaunt. He ran right and then cut up the field for the end zone with 5:11 left in the game.

Caines credited the win to the team’s PED: “preparation, execution and desire. That’s the only drug we need,” he said.

The Dons evened their record at 3-3 going into next week’s Channel League opener against Dos Pueblos.