Dons spark second half comeback, knock off Pacifica 27-20

It was the stellar defensive performance in the second half and the perfect debut game from kicker Alea Hyatt that paced the Santa Barbara High football team past Pacifica in a 27-20 non-league decision at a rowdy Peabody Stadium on Friday.

Trailing 17-7 at halftime, the Dons’ defense took a stand in the second half, forcing two fumbles, intercepting a pass, and allowing the opposition only three points to facilitate a magnificent comeback late in the game.

“We just came out and we executed,” said head coach JT Stone. “There were some adjustments that needed to be made on both sides of the ball, and once we made those corrections our defense started making plays and our offense finally got going.”

The Dons gave the crowd lots to cheer about early on, capping off their first drive with a score as quarterback Brent Peus hit wide receiver Tick Jellison on a beautiful crossing route to give Santa Barbara a 7-0 lead.

However Pacifica countered with an effective running attack to put them in the red zone before they converted a goal line scamper on the first play of the second quarter to knot the score at 7 apiece. On the Tritons’ subsequent drive, running back Torrey Davis broke open for a 23-yard touchdown run to take the lead.

Santa Barbara was given the chance to close the deficit just before the second quarter concluded but Pacifica intercepted Peus off of a tipped pass to close out the first half.

“The game wasn’t over, we knew we were right there in the ball game,” said Stone. “I told our guys to keep fighting and establish the run game. Tick made two big catches in the second half which really put us over the top but overall I was really happy with how our team battled.”

The Tritons fumbled the kick return on the first play of the second half which gave Santa Barbara excellent field position. Junior Garcia pounded it in to shrink the deficit to 17-14.

Santa Barbara’s defense forced its second consecutive fumble with ten minutes remaining early in the third quarter to give Brent Peus and Co. a chance to take the lead. Faced with a fourth-down situation, Santa Barbara resorted to kicker Alea Hyatt, who pulled through on a long attempt to tie the game.

Friday night was a debut game for Hyatt, as she was added to the roster only last week. Hyatt, who is committed to North Carolina for soccer, gave the Dons a perfect showing, booting in three extra points and two field goals on the night.

“Alea is a phenomenal athlete, she is just as good as my wideouts,” said Stone. “She’s a super competitor with a golden leg and we utilized her to help us win this ball game to night. She is a great addition to our squad.”

The momentum continued for the Dons defensively, as they forced a three-and-out with only five minutes remaining in the third quarter. Brent Peus then established a connection with Tick Jellison, connecting with the speedy receiver on two huge completions to put the Dons within striking distance. Unable to find the end zone, Santa Barbara once again turned to Hyatt to take the lead, trusting her with a 36-yard attempt. Hyatt split the uprights to give the Dons a 20-17 edge over the Tritons,

The pivotal drive for Santa Barbara came late in the fourth quarter when the Dons offense took over on Pacifica’s 10-yard line. With the aid of a thunderous student section, running back Sean Babcock was able to secure the victory with an impressive outside run that put Pacifica out of reach.

“Brent handed the ball off and I bounced it outside,” said Babcock. “I was able to pick up speed and get around the first defender and then I picked up an awesome block from Blake Kelley and just ran it in.”

Down 27-17 with only two minutes to go, Pacifica was able to kick a field goal but followed that with an unsuccessful onside kick attempt.

“We didn’t have good job security and that hurt us,” said Pacifica head coach Mike Moon. “We knew Santa Barbara can put points on the board quickly and when you come out in the second half and fumble the ball twice its difficult to generate anything on either side of the ball and so we just couldn’t pull it out.”

Santa Barbara improves to 4-2 with the victory and is set to face a challenging Ventura squad on Friday in the Channel League opener.