Tonight’s cross-town football game at Dos Pueblos High’s Scott O’Leary Stadium has taken on a significance of biblical proportions.
At least that’s how the opposing quarterbacks read it.
They will battle each other like David and Goliath, and then worship together at church on Sunday.
“We’re really good friends,” said junior Deacon Hill, the 6-foot-4 and 225-pound Goliath who calls signals for Santa Barbara High.
He was referring to Trent Jones, the 5-11 and 155-pound junior sling-shooter for Dos Pueblos and a fellow congregationalist at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
“We’ll talk with each other at church and ask how each other’s weeks are going,” Hill said. “I know both Trent and his brother Trey, who plays tight end and linebacker. They’re both really good guys, and I respect them on the field, too.
“We really haven’t talked this week, though.”
The David-and-Goliath story is threaded throughout tonight’s showdown for the Channel League football championship.
Santa Barbara High, ranked No. 3 in the CIF-Southern Section’s Division 8, will enter the contest with records of 7-2 overall and 4-0 in the Channel League.
Dos Pueblos’ own prospects in the Channel League had about as much life as the Dead Sea after a 0-5 preseason. But the Chargers have since won three of their four conference games, giving them a shot at sharing the Dons’ Channel League treasure with an upset tonight.
“It’s going to be crazy,” Jones said.
Starting at quarterback for a Channel League co-championship team would’ve sounded crazy to him barely a month ago.
Jones would’ve been more likely to mimic his friend Deacon as the scout team quarterback during this week’s practices.
“I was like third string through the first five games,” he said.
He got his first chance to play near the end of the Sept. 29 game against Righetti when he Chargers fell behind 35-0.
“There were only two minutes to go, so I just went out there to have fun,” Jones said.
His fun included an eight-yard scramble to DP’s lone touchdown of the night.
The Chargers were plagued by turnovers throughout their first seven games. Coach Doug Caines, who was already missing one quarterback with an injury, gave Jones another chance in the Lompoc game after his other quarterback had thrown three quick interceptions.
The Braves also picked off three of Jones’ 17 passes to finish off a 56-0 rout. To that point, DP’s three quarterbacks had thrown 15 interceptions in seven games.
“He was like a deer in the headlights at first,” Caines conceded, “but we talk about taking applications every day, and he earned the right to battle in there.”
Jones played an error-free game the following week against San Marcos, completing 8-of-10 passes for 63 yards and no interceptions in a 14-12 victory.
“I had to learn a lot, especially on reading a defense,” he said. “It was going from scout O to playing against actual defenses.”
Hill was admittedly surprised to hear that his friend was starting, but not that he was succeeding.
“I know who he is,” he said. “He and Trey both work hard. Trent isn’t a big talker but I think he is a leader by example.”
The best example of that came last week when Jones completed 7-of-11 passes for 135 yards and a touchdown— and again, no interceptions — in a 33-14 win over Santa Ynez.
The young quarterback was quick to credit a young offensive line that has been improving by the week.
“They really held up, giving me time, and that helped the passing game,” Jones said. “And it’s been creating some big holes for the running game, too.”
He’s been playing quarterback since he was an eighth grader in the Youth Football League.
In seventh grade, he was catching passes … from Deacon Hill.
“He was my receiver on the YFL Sharks,” Hill said. “He has hands. He’s athletic. But we didn’t play on the same team in eighth grade.”
Hill was a star from the start, getting several varsity starts last year as a sophomore. He performed so well in last summer’s college showcases that several Division 1 powers offered scholarships. He committed to Wisconsin before his junior season even started.
“The best thing that happened to him was committing early because now he can just play,” Santa Barbara coach J.T. Stone said. “A team has invested in him and so, to me, it’s actually eased things for him.
“It’s allowed him to just come out and be here for his team.”
Hill leads the County in passing with 1,959 yards and 21 touchdowns. Santa Barbara’s Goliath has also rushed for nine TDs.
“Deacon took it upon himself during the summer to get himself into shape as best he could,” Stone said. “I told him, ‘When I call your number, I need you to get me five (yards), and he’s done that all season.
“He’s a big-body guy, and even when he gets hit he’s going to get another two or three yards.”
Hill has actually relished the challenge.
“I can care less about getting hit,” he said.
DP will take its best sling-shot tonight.
Mark Patton’s column appears on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org