A fast start on Friday has set up Dos Pueblos High for a climactic finish to its Channel League football season next week.
The Chargers celebrated homecoming with a 33-14 victory over Santa Ynez, putting them into position to play for a share of the conference championship next Friday when Santa Barbara visits Scott O’Leary Stadium.
“They’re a very good football team — I’ve played with every single one of them, actually,” said Udy Loza, a former Don who transferred to DP as a sophomore. “I’m ready to go toe-to-toe with them.
“I hope they still respect me, win or lose. I still love every last one of them.”
Loza’s 152-yard, two-touchdown rushing night on Friday came on the heels of last week’s 144-yard effort against San Marcos.
Conner Lee also scored twice — once on a run, and then again on a pass interception return — as DP (3-6, 3-1) stayed within a game of the first-place Dons.
“They are two types of different animals,” coach Doug Caines said of his two senior playmakers. “Conner might be the reindeer (with antlers down), and Udy is more like the elk who’ll poke you with his horn and then get out of there.
“It’s awesome to watch.”
The Chargers had scored 21 points before the Pirates (3-6, 1-3) got their initial first down.
Trent Jones positioned DP for its first touchdown, scrambling to his right and then flinging a 33-yard pass down the sideline to Baylor Huyck.
“He’s a big target,” Jones said of his 6-foot-5 teammate. “I love hitting him.”
Loza scored on the next play, taking a direct snap and bulling through the Pirates’ defense from the 11-yard line.
The Chargers mixed their calls well again on their next possession. Jones got DP into Santa Ynez territory with a 27-yard pass to Josh Navarro, and Conner Lee scored on the next play, running 27 yards around left end on a jet sweep with 1:06 still left in the first quarter.
Jones, a junior who started the year on the scout team as the third-string quarterback, completed 8-of-13 passes for 136 yards.
“He’s a good kid who’s really been studying the game,” Caines said. “He had some plays where you can see that green, that new baby grease I call it. But he’s working through those things and he gets right back up and gets right back at it.
“I was really proud of his performance.”
Daniel Santacruz terrorized Pirates’ quarterback Bennett Redell throughout the first half, sacking him twice during the first 15 minutes and batting down his last pass of the second period.
The biggest defensive play of the half came when a mob of Chargers gang-tackled Dean Tipolt for a one-yard loss on fourth down and one yard to go at the DP 43.
“Our defense has kind of arrived,” Caines said.
That play stirred Loza to break off a 57-yard TD run on the next play, bouncing his run to the left sideline where he out-ran the Santa Ynez secondary.
“My line is blocking well and I feel like I’m running harder,” Loza said. “I try not to think when I play. I just try to react.
“I try to make the first guy miss, and I’m just going to keep doing it.”
Evan Steinberger’s third conversion kick of the night gave the Chargers a 21-0 lead with 5:30 still left in the first half.
The Pirates’ offense finally pulled up anchor in the next five minutes, picking up their first three first downs of the night. Camron Prendergast made a juggling catch of Redell’s 11-yard pass, and Redell added a 12-yard scramble to the DP 15. Redell finished with 71 yards passing, completing 9-of-16 attempts, and rushing for a team-high 53 yards on 15 carries.
But Johnny Alvarado knocked down Redell’s pass into the end zone, and Santacruz got a hand on his next toss at the line of scrimmage. Alonzo Cruz joined the fun, stopping Redell for no gain on a keeper.
Santa Ynez then came up empty on a 32-yard field goal, leaving DP ahead 21-0 at the half.
The Chargers’ out-gained the Pirates 213 yards to 42 in the first half.
Pirates’ coach Josh McClurg tweaked his offense to good effect at halftime to actually out-gain DP in the final two quarters, 195 yards to 117.
He got 41 of those yards on a half-back pass from Logan Ast to Prendergast, jump-starting Santa Ynez’s first drive of the second half. Redell ran to a first down at the Chargers’ 20, but Lee intercepted a tipped pass just two plays later and dashed 88 yards for a TD and a 27-0 lead.
The senior star, who returned from an injury to full-time duty just last week, also made numerous tackles from his linebacker position.
“He started pretty much the whole game on D and was pivotal on offense, and on special teams and on returns, too,” Caines said. “The reality is that we fed him as much as we should have. If we did any more it might not be healthy.
“He’s the kind of kid who will go until he drops, but it’s my job that we make sure that we don’t overuse him.”
The Pirates finally scored just before the end of the third quarter. Runs of 11 yards by Redell and 16 by Ast set up Redell’s 21-yard pass to Ladnig in the back of the end zone.
DP answered with an 11-play, 61-yard scoring march. Johnny Alvarado ran 14 yards out of the wildcat quarterback position, and then Jones returned to the field to complete passes of 14 yards to Huyck and 21 to Ryder Fredrickson for his first varsity touchdown and the last of the night for the Chargers with 7:16 to go.
“He’s a good friend of mine,” Jones said. “I told him that if he goes in, I’m definitely hitting him.”
Redell capped the Pirates’ scoring less than four minutes later with a 16-yard pass to Prendergast, but DP had already secured its date with destiny for next week.
“I like the way we’re playing right now,” Caines said. “We have a huge task next week, but we’re building confidence and starting to understand things.”