Santa Barbara works overtime to defeat Dos Pueblos


Santa Barbara High made big play after big play, and the Dons needed every one of them to beat Dos Pueblos, 28-21, in a Channel League football overtime thriller Friday night at Scott O’Leary Stadium.

Junior Garcia bulled through the line for a 3-yard touchdown run and Hugo Ronces kicked the PAT to give the Dons the seven-point lead in overtime.

In an attempt to tie the score, Dos Pueblos running back Angel Davison was stopped an inch short of the goal line on a third-down play. On fourth down, Santa Barbara cornerback Russell Enholm knocked down a Barrett Burnes pass intended for Josh Flora and the Dons rushed the field to celebrate their first league win.

The city rivalry win comes a week after the Dons (4-4, 1-1) were blown out by Ventura. The heartbreaking loss drops Dos Pueblos to 1-7, 0-2.

“It was fun,” said Santa Barbara coach JT Stone, who was returning to his alma mater. “Our coaches did a good job this week keeping (the players) focused. You know, we haven’t finished (a game) all year. We had to go five quarters to do it.”

Carter Soto, who picked off a Kellen Roberts pass and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown to give the Dons a 21-14 lead early in the fourth quarter, said the win keeps alive the team’s goal of making the playoffs.

“I knew we had to come out and play hard because a loss would have ended our (shot at the postseason) — no Golden Tornado,” Soto said of the program’s playoff nickname. “That’s what we play for, the golden jerseys.”

SB's Jeremiah Nicholson (10) and Adam Ebeling (8) stop Dos Pueblos' Angel Davison from reaching the end zone on DP's second-to-last play.

Santa Barbara’s Jeremiah Nicholson (10) and Adam Ebeling (8) stop Dos Pueblos’ Angel Davison from reaching the end zone on the Chargers’ second-to-last play. (Presidio Sports Photos)

The loss was big blow for Dos Pueblos.

“It’s a tough one, a tough one to swallow,” said coach Nate Mendoza.

On the play after Davison was stopped short of the goal-line, the Chargers were hit with an illegal procedure penalty, moving the ball back to the 5.

“One inch,” Mendoza lamented of how close Davison came to scoring. “It’s tough, it’s been very tough.”

Burnes, who came in for an injured Roberts, rolled to his right on the fourth-down play and tried to hit Flora in the near corner of the end zone. Enholm, however, had the play covered.

“I thought he’d run the fade and I was in man coverage,” Enholm said of his defense on Flora. “I saw him break it off and I jumped in, thinking there was no way (Burnes) was going to throw it to that guy. I thought for sure he’d try the other side. I turned to see the ball, and I could have had an easy interception; I was in disbelief that it was right there. I just batted it down and was ecstatic.”

“He’s a playmaker,” said Stone of Enholm, a returning all-league defender. “Russell plays big. I don’t expect anything less from him.”

Dos Pueblos was hot at the start, scoring on its first possession. Flora made a terrific catch on a 20-yard pass from Roberts for a 7-0 lead.

Later in the first quarter, Daniel Hernandez recovered a fumble for the Chargers to end a Santa Barbara drive. But on the very next play, DP fumbled the ball back to the Dons. Alfredo Zavala made the recovery at the DP 27. Four plays later, Santa Barbara quarterback Brent Peus found Adam Ebeling in the end zone on a 6-yard pass to tie the score at 7-7 with 10:51 left in the second quarter.

Dos Pueblos was moving the ball again behind the running of Davison. He rushed for 160 yards on 27 carries. The Dons, however, forced another fumble and Garcia recovered at their 47.

Junior Garcia Touchdown

Santa Barbara High’s Junior Garcia stretches the ball across the goal line for the winning touchdown in overtime of Friday’s game.

The defenses took over the game midway through the second period. A short DP punt gave the Dons the ball at the Chargers’ 37 with less than minute to play in the first half. Peus was sacked by Austen Pearce for a 7-yard loss on first down. On second down, Peus scrambled for a 4-yard gain and got out of bounds with 11 seconds remaining.

Faced with third and 13 at the 40, the Dons called a wide receiver screen play. They executed it perfectly. Danny Vallin caught the ball and, with a wall of blockers in front of him, sped up the left side into the end zone with no time left on the clock.

“Danny is a playmaker and we like to get the ball in his hands,” Stone said. “I figured (the DP defenders) were going to back off, which they did, and the play we run, a tunnel screen, is a great play for us. We want to get the ball to the guy who is shifty. Our linemen got to their blocks and Danny made magic. I think it was the most important play of the game. “

The play could have crushed DP’s spirit, but the Chargers refused to fold. They missed a field goal after an 81-yard run by Davison put the ball at the 15. But they came back on the next series and scored the tying touchdown. Roberts scrambled to his right and hit Flora to make it 14-14 with 1:43 left in the third quarter.

The Chargers had momentum and were on the move again. But Santa Barbara’s defense stepped up to make another big play. Soto picked off Roberts at midfield and bolted down the sideline for a touchdown and a 21-14 Dons lead. Roberts injured his shoulder trying to make a tackle and didn’t return at quarterback.

Soto said he was just following his assignment on the play.

“Basically, we’d been going over all week that I have to get back in my zone,” he said. “I fell back and he threw it right to me. I guess I was perfectly in place.”

Dos Pueblos battled back with Burnes at quarterback. He guided the team on a 68-yard drive and threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Blake Erwin that tied the score at 21-all with 4:55 left in regulation.

“Barrett did a great job for us stepping up,” said Mendoza.

Santa Barbara's Carter Soto, who intercepted a pass and ran it back for a touchdown, pressures Dos Pueblos quarterback Barrett Burnes on a key play in overtime.

Santa Barbara’s Carter Soto, who intercepted a pass and ran it back for a touchdown, pressures Dos Pueblos quarterback Barrett Burnes on a key play in overtime.

The game went into overtime, with Santa Barbara getting first crack at scoring from the 25.

The Dons went to the powerful Garcia for three running plays and he scored the eventual winning touchdown.

“It was definitely a change of pace in overtime,” said Mendoza of dealing with Garcia. “They never really got the running game going on us and then that 22 did a phenomenal job hitting his holes and running hard.”

Garcia, who primarily plays defense, said he was ready to carry the load on offense in overtime.

“I really wanted to win this game so I went in there to take over,” he said. “I was tried but I was motivated to get this win. It’s a big win.”