Dos Pueblos and Santa Barbara may have stumbled into Channel League football play, but they’re both in full sprint as they head for the finish line tonight.
The conference championship will be on the line when the Dons visit the Chargers at Scott O’Leary Stadium for a 7 o’clock game.
“We were winless in the preseason and now we’re facing a great team that we have a chance to tie for a league championship,” DP coach Doug Caines said. “That’s just a testament to the hard work that these guys have put in.
“It’s been a special group and they have a special story to tell.”
Lompoc, ranked No. 8 in the CIF-Southern Section’s Division 5, is the only team that has beaten the Chargers (3-6 overall, 3-1 Channel League) in league play the last four weeks.
The Dons (7-2, 4-0) were ranked No. 1 in Division 8 before losing their last two nonleague games to Pacifica and St. Bonaventure. They’re back up to No. 3, however, after four straight wins which included a 27-21 victory at Lompoc two weeks ago.
“We weren’t satisfied with what we were doing, especially with those two early losses, but I think we really found ourselves in that Lompoc game,” quarterback Deacon Hill said. “We’re building off that and pushing to where we want to be.”
Santa Barbara might be considered the heavy favorite, but Dons’ coach J.T. Stone – a former star quarterback at DP – said the high stakes and cross-town atmosphere can level any playing field.
“We feel we’re a stronger football team but we know it’s a rivalry game and everybody is going to come out swinging,” he said. “We know DP is going to try to defend their turf for their homecoming, and we expect them to come out with their ‘A’ game.
“But we’re going to come out and play hard and go after this league title.”
Although Santa Barbara may have a larger constellation of stars, Dos Pueblos does have a few senior playmakers.
Udy Loza, who rushed for only 165 yards during the first seven games while the Chargers’ offensive line dealt with injuries and inexperience, has put together games of 144 and 167 yards the last two weeks.
“When someone gets it going two or three games in a row like that, it’s definitely worrisome,” Stone said. “We expect Udy to touch it. He’s their engine.”
Linebacker Conner Lee, the heart of DP’s aggressive defense, has also been called upon for some big offensive moments. He scored four touchdowns in the Cabrillo victory, and one each the last two weeks in the wins over San Marcos and Santa Ynez.
“We push each other,” Loza said. “We both play back and receiver, and we’re both a double-threat. I really respect him as a player and I hope he does me, as well.”
DP coach Doug Caines admitted that he had to rewrite his offensive playbook when it became clear that he didn’t have the linemen for the smash-mouth approach that took the Chargers to the CIF-SS Division 10 final in 2017.
“We made kind of a holistic shift,” he said. “It’s had its growing pains, and it doesn’t help when you’re facing dominating teams like Pacifica and Righetti, but I like the way we’re playing right now.
“We have a huge task this week, but we’re building confidence and starting to understand things, and now we can hopefully be more multiple and play good football. And I’m super-excited that our defense has arrived.”
That defense will be severely challenged by a Dons’ offense that features Hill’s strong and accurate passing arm. Santa Barbara’s receiving corps should get deeper this week, as well, with Jake Knecht’s expected return from an injury.
Three-year starters Jackson Gonzales and Dakota Hill are coming off monster games against Cabrillo, combining for 11 catches, 258 yards and five TDs.
“It’s really good to see where they’re at right now after all the effort they’ve put into the program,” Stone said. “I want us to win for guys like that, guys who have paid their dues and who have really helped me get our program to this point.
“Those two guys have a lot of football mileage on them right now. They’re both having great seasons and I’m happy for them.”
Santa Barbara also found its footing in Channel League play with an improved running game that features Justin Perez and Ty Montgomery. They combined for 117 yards on just 17 carries against Cabrillo.
“We’re expecting both teams to play a really good game,” Stone said. “This one is for the community.”
THOUSAND OAKS (0-9, 0-3) AT BISHOP DIEGO (4-5, 1-2): The Cardinals improved their chances for a CIF-SS Division 5 playoff berth with last week’s dramatic, 17-14 win at Moorpark. They would lock up a bid with a win in tonight’s 7:30 p.m. homecoming game against the winless Lancers at SBCC’s La Playa Stadium.
Thousand Oaks has lost 24 consecutive games dating back to the 2017 season, but 14 of those defeats have come in a Camino League that’s stacked with several of the state’s top-ranked teams. The Lancers took Bishop into overtime last year before losing, 30-24.
“I’m pretty impressed with how hard they play,” Cardinals’ coach Tom Crawford said. “I had the kids watch the video of their game last week against Camarillo (No. 1 in CIF-SS Division 4), and they were down only 14-7 in the first half and moving the ball.
“They have a dynamic kid at quarterback (sophomore Charlie Spencer) who’s a very dangerous athlete. They run a zone-read, spread offense and he makes very good decisions with the ball and can hurt you with his feet.”
Bishop has been stepping on opponents, however, with the feet of senior running back Adrian Soracco. He caught his stride at the end of last year which included a 207-yard rushing effort at Thousand Oaks. He got this year’s season total up to 879 with last week’s174-yard effort against Moorpark.
“He’s such a tough kid, as the season goes on he seems to just get better,” Crawford said. “Our running game finally got untracked against Moorpark and I think part of it is that we’re getting some guys back on the offensive line.”
The return of 6-foot-3, 210-pound sophomore receiver Sam Mikeale from an injury has also bolstered Bishop’s passing game. He made a pair of long TD receptions at Moorpark.
“His size makes it hard for teams to match up with him, one-on-one,” Crawford said. “He’s just going to keep getting better and better with experience and be a reliable place to go for (quarterbacks) Jackson Haskell and Michael Luckhurst.”
SAN MARCOS (3-6, 1-3) AT SANTA YNEZ (3-6, 1-3): Although the Royals are out of contention for a playoff berth, Ben Partee could set the school’s single-season passing record tonight. The senior quarterback has completed 152 of 233 attempts (65.2 percent) for 18 TDs and 1,876 yards, leaving him just 17 yards short of the mark set in 2005 by the late Cameron Ely.
Partee erased Ely’s career passing record of 3,527 yards last week even while taking a pounding from an aggressive Lompoc pass rush. He is now at 3,690 yards (286-for-499) with 35 touchdowns.
“I’m proud of the way that he stood in there and competed, and was able to break that record,” coach Jason Fowle said. “I’m really proud of our program, with how we’ve competed and showed improvement every game in spite of the results. I still feel like we got better every week.”
Junior Bennett Redell could be on his way to eventually setting a career mark for Santa Ynez. Redell, who’s in his second season on varsity, has completed 101 of 183 pass for 1,199 yards and 12 TDs this year.
CABRILLO (0-9, 0-4) AT LOMPOC (6-3, 3-1): With a little help from Dos Pueblos, the Braves could still win their 10th straight league championship under coach Andrew Jones. Lompoc would finish as a Channel League tri-champion if DP upsets Santa Barbara and the Braves avoid an upset against Cabrillo tonight at Huyck Stadium.
The Braves, who are ranked No. 8 in this week’s CIF-SS Division 5 poll, have logged 10 straight wins over the Conquistadores since a 10-7 loss in the cross-town game of 2008. Although injuries sidelined Leondre Coleman and Oscar Tenorio last week, sophomore Sheldon Canley broke loose for 265 yards and four TDs in a 48-20 win at San Marcos.
Cabrillo has lost 23 straight games dating back to the 2017 season.
CARPINTERIA (1-8, 0-4) AT VASQUEZ (3-6, 1-1): The Warriors are looking to snap a seven-game losing streak in tonight’s nonconference, season finale in Acton.
The Mustangs have actually lost their last four games on the field, but Pasadena Poly wound up forfeiting its 33-14 win over Vasquez three weeks ago for having failed to submit the proper paperwork on a freshman player.
LAGUNA BLANCA (0-5) AT VALLEY CHRISTIAN ACADEMY (3-4): The Owls are playing for the future tonight at 7 p.m., with 14-year-old freshman Kent Dunn having taken over at quarterback for an injured teammate.
They’ll be facing a Lions team that is ranked No. 9 in the CIF-SS Division 2 for eight-man football.
In Saturday’s action:
THACHER (2-3, 0-1) AT CATE (5-2, 2-0): The Rams will bid for their fourth straight win and a perfect Mt. Pinos League season in Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. rivalry game.
Cate, which is ranked No. 4 in this week’s CIF-SS Division 1 poll for eight-man football, is led by sophomore quarterback Will Bouma, and running backs Khadim Pouye and William Deardorff. Thacher is ranked No. 9 in Division 1.