BWP: Rhodes, Rottman lead the way in Dons’ win over San Marcos

Sawyer Rhodes scored on a spectacular individual effort to highlight a sparkling second-half performance by Santa Barbara High’s boys water polo team in a first-place showdown of Channel  League unbeatens on Tuesday at San Marcos.

With the Dons playing a man down, Rhodes tipped away a pass, took off on a breakaway and scored on a lefty backhanded shot around San Marcos goalie Jack Palmer for an 11-7 advantage with 3:53 to go in the fourth period.

Santa Barbara dominated play in the second half, holding San Marcos to just two goals, en route to a 12-8 victory that puts the Dons alone in first place with a 4-0 record. San Marcos is now 4-1.

Rhodes and Jack Rottman carried the scoring load for the Dons with five goals apiece. Chris Gaffney played stellar defense in the two-meter position and Justyn Barrios was solid in goal for the No. 3-ranked team in CIF Division 2.

San Marcos, ranked fifth in Division 2, was led by Spencer Wood with three goals.

Santa Barbara coach Mark Walsh said Rhodes drew up the play that proved to be the difference maker in the game.

“We had been working on that in practice,” Walsh said. “We hadn’t used that yet. Right at the timeout, Sawyer came over and said, ‘Bring the clipboard over, this is what we’re doing. I got this guys.’ He basically drew it up and it worked out perfectly.”

Said Rhodes: “We drew that play up so I could split the guys up top and bait that pass. In practice the last week and a half, it hadn’t been working. As we called the timeout, I turned to my coach and said, ‘Grab the white board, I’m drawing this up and I’m drawing it up right. We’re doing it. I’m stealing a ball and it’s going to lead to a goal for us.’ I was adamant about doing it and Walsh let me take the reins on it. I was so excited.”

San Marcos Jeff Ashton said the play was the back-breaker for his team.

“I felt being down 10-7 we had a good chance. We earned that ejection, got their guy majored from the game and there was still four and half minutes left in the fourth quarter. Then we turn the ball over and they countered on it. We score that goal and make it 10-8 and they have one of their better players out of the game, it may be a different scenario.

“That is big momentum killer when you get a steal like that on a 6 on 5 and they get score out of it,” he said.

The Royals led 6-5 at halftime, but they couldn’t get anything going in the second half as they hurt themselves with offensive fouls, turnovers and missed shots.

Rhodes scored on a skip shot at 5:48 in the third period to tie the score and Rottman followed with the go-ahead goal at two meters, off an assist from Adam Gross on the right wing. Rottman rose high out of the water to score from the perimeter for Santa Barbara’s third straight goal and an 8-6 lead with 2:38 left in the period.

“He has a helluva good outside shot and no one really knows that. It’s kind of a secret weapon,” said Rhodes of Rottman.

“I really don’t shoot outside shots that much because I’m a center,” Rottman said. “So, it was an interesting game for me because I really got to use my outside shot, which I’ve been practicing on for months in practice.”

Walsh said all the attention Rhodes draws gives Rottman and other players more opportunities to score.

“They have to have two guys on (Rhodes) so somebody has to be eventually open, Walsh said. “Jack Rottman was on the perimeter a little bit more and he’s got a good shot. He was finding the corners.”

Ashton said his team had a tough time defending.

San Marcos' Adam Fuller and goalie Jack Palmer defend against Santa Barbara's Jack Rottman in front of the Royals' goal. (Photo courtesy of Sandra Wood).

San Marcos’ Adam Fuller and goalie Jack Palmer defend against Santa Barbara’s Jack Rottman in front of the Royals’ goal. (Photo courtesy of Sandra Wood).

“We gave away too many goals at center. Sawyer Rhodes, he’s a great player and we knew he was going to get some goals Our hope was to take away the other stuff. Jack Rottman played a good game for them at center. He had five goals, most of them out of center.”

Offensively, the Royals started well but struggled in the second half.

“We got impatient on offense and started to rush some things,” Ashton said. “(The Dons) played well; they are a good team. We just struggled a bit offensively.”

Santa Barbara’s defense had something to do with it.  Gaffney wrestled with San Marcos center Miles Cole and contained him before fouling out in the fourth period.

“Chris Gaffney was working really hard at center D against Miles. He’s giving up like 50 pounds but he works real hard and knows how to play position,” Walsh said.

Barrios also came up with some steals to thwart San Marcos scoring attempts.

Wood ended San Marcos’ scoring drought with 1:42 to go. But Santa Barbara responded with goals from the 1-2 punch of Rottman and Rhodes to lead 10-7 and take momentum into the final period.

The Dons were denied a couple of chances by Palmer after San Marcos turnovers. Then Rhodes took matters into his own hands with his great individual effort.

“That was like the most fun game I’ve ever been a part of,” said Rhodes. “I have a lot of buddies on the other team and we’re all pretty competitive, so we knew we really had to be hyped up and get some energy like the run we had in the third quarter.”

The second meeting between the two teams is on Thursday, November 5 at Santa Barbara High.