Friday Night Lights: Bragging rights and more on line in The Big Game

There’s plenty at stake in Friday night’s 56th Big Game between Santa Barbara High and San Marcos at Warkentin Stadium.

Besides bragging rights, Santa Barbara needs a win to keep its hopes alive for an at-large berth in the CIF Western Division playoffs. A victory also would give the Dons the City Championship.

San Marcos will be motivated to spoil its rival’s playoff dream. And a victory in the regular-season finale would be the highlight of what’s been a difficult season (1-8, 0-3).

The Royals come into the game with their best offensive players healthy. Quarterback D’Shaun Vines is a dual threat and running back Ivan Reyes is tough to bring down; he was the MVP in last year’s game.

Santa Barbara enters the game with a 5-4 record (1-2 in league). Its playoff chances improved this week when Ocean League leader and Western Division sixth-ranked Lawndale had to forfeit four wins because it used an illegal player. The forfeits drop Lawndale to 4-5 overall and 2-2 in league.

The Dons are coming off a bye week after losing a tough game against Buena, 28-21. Their four losses this season have been by a total of 22 polnts.

Santa Barbara senior quarterback Brent Peus has a chance of achieving a couple of milestones in the Big Game. He is 242 yards shy of the 3,000-yard mark in passing yardage for the season and is one touchdown pass away from 30.

Two Dons receivers are closing in on 1,000 receiving yards. Junior Chris “Tick” Jellison has racked up 922 and senior Mason Bigelow has 885.

Special teams play could play a big part in the game. It did last year as San Marcos scored on two kickoff returns following Santa Barbara touchdowns in the first half en route to a 27-20 win, ending the Dons’ four-year win streak in the Big Game.

The Pick: Santa Barbara

Bishop Diego (9-0, 2-0) at Nordhoff (2-7, 1-1), 7 p.m.
— The Cardinals travel to Ojai to play a team that has been a thorn in their side for the last couple of years. Nordhoff twice denied them from winning the Tri-Valley League title, and in 2013 the Rangers beat Bishop in the CIF Northwest Division semifinals. Ranked No. 6 in the CIF Northern Division, Bishop is the favorite in the regular-season finale. The Cardinals have a lot going on offense, with the powerful running of Mike Soracco and John Harris and the sprinter speed of AV Bennett. Coach Ralph Molina’s defense is relentless. Senior linebacker Matt Shotwell spearheads the unit. Ashton Borgeson and Julian Tico are coming off solid games against Carpinteria. In addition to playing for the outright title, the game has special significance for quarterback Spencer Stovesand. He grew up in Ojai and knows several of the Nordhoff players. He would like nothing better than to leave there Friday night as an outright TVL champion. The Pick: Bishop Diego.

Fillmore (0-9, 0-2) at Carpinteria (3-6, 1-1) 7:30 p.m. — The Warriors can earn a CIF playoff berth with a victory at home. Their last playoff appearance was in 2013 in the Northwest Division. Now they’re in the much-tougher Northern Division with bigger schools like Camarillo, Lompoc, Arroyo Grande, Palmdale, Thousand Oaks, and Atasacadero, all possible first-round opponents. Take away three big plays and Carpinteria battled toe-to-toe with sixth-ranked and undefeated Bishop Diego last week. The Warriors should have an easier time against a rebuilding Fillmore squad. The Pick: Carpinteria.

Lucerne Valley (5-4) at Laguna Blanca (6-2), 1 p.m. — The Owls open the CIF Division 1 8-man playoffs against the co-champions of the Agape League. Both teams are coming off losses, Laguna fell to Condor League champion Cate, 70-21, while Lucerne Valley lost a 28-26 heartbreaker to Upland Christian Academy, leaving the teams as co-champions. Laguna hopes to get a couple of starters back from injuries. The Pick: Laguna Blanca