BWP: Dons come around in CIF-opening victory

Trailing by two goals in the second period of Thursday’s CIF opener, Santa Barbara High flipped the switch and scored eight straight on its way to a 12-6 victory over Martin Luther King.

When Jack Rottman found Adam Gross wide open on the wing for a goal with 1:29 to go in the third quarter, the Dons had turned a 2-4 deficit into a commanding 10-4 lead.

Santa Barbara High's Sawyer Rhodes winds up for a shot attempt in Thursday's game. (John Dvorak/Presidio Sports Photos)

Santa Barbara High’s Sawyer Rhodes winds up for a shot attempt in Thursday’s game. (John Dvorak/Presidio Sports Photos)

“We had a little bit of a hard start. I don’t know exactly why. We had a turnover that led to a penalty and that’s never a good way to start the game,” explained Dons head coach Mark Walsh. “I don’t know if it was jitters or what, we didn’t do a good job on 6-on-5s either.

“I think the biggest thing is they just started to look like they got tired to me, so I think our conditioning and our speed was a factor so we were able to get some easier goals on the counter.”

Sure enough, more and more of Santa Barbara’s goals came in transition as the game unfolded.

Sawyer Rhodes finished with six goals, two steals, one assist, and two drawn ejections. Three of his goals and the assist came during the 8-0 run. On one play, Rhodes stole the ball on the defensive end, swam the length of the pool, drew a defender and the goalie to him, then dished to Adam Gross for a wide-open cage.

Rhodes, a junior, is in the USA Development Player Program. Like all the players on Santa Barbara’s roster, this was the first CIF game Rhodes had played.

“We definitely picked it up in the last three quarters,” said Rhodes, who admitted to the team having some nerves in the beginning. “First one was a bit of a shaky start but Walsh kind of calmed us down in the first break and was like, ‘you guys are better than this team, you’re seeded higher, just play your game and play with confidence.'”

Santa Barbara comes into the postseason seeded No. 3 overall.

Another factor was senior Chris Gaffney, who gave the Dons a boost entering the game in the second quarter after Walsh benched him in the first period for sleeping through practice the day before.

It was the second time of the season that the Dons and ML King faced each other. In an earlier non-league game, the Dons won 9-7.

The second round is Saturday against Damien at a location TBD.