A league championship or playoff berth will be at stake at just about every high school football venue in the area tonight as the regular season enters its final two weeks.
Several injury-wracked teams are limping into the stretch drive while others are picking up speed. Santa Barbara High is in full sprint.
The Dons would clinch at least a share of the Channel League championship with a victory tonight over winless Cabrillo at Huyck Stadium, site of their 27-21 victory last week over defending conference champion Lompoc.
“Obviously it was a big win, but nothing’s been won yet,” Santa Barbara coach J.T. Stone said. “We haven’t won the league championship yet, so the focus this week is to not come out complacent.
“We want to make sure that, ‘Hey, let’s not get lax … Let’s not get out here and lose sight of the ultimate prize,’ and that’s the league championship.”
Lompoc, which lost quarterback Cameron Iribarren and linebacker Cullen Ranney early in the season, had star running back and linebacker Leondre Coleman leave last week’s game with a hand injury.
Dos Pueblos and Bishop Diego have both lost multiple quarterbacks during the season. They have, however, their second-stringers — as well as several other key players — back in time to make a push toward the postseason.
Here are tonight’s matchups, with all 11-man games starting at 7 p.m.
SANTA BARBARA (6-2, 3-0) AT CABRILLO (0-8, 0-3): The Dons moved up to No. 4 in this week’s CIF-Southern Section Division 8 poll and are jockeying for a high seed for the upcoming playoffs.
Junior quarterback Deacon Hill leads the way, having passed for 1,605 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Cabrillo has a promising quarterback of its own in junior Zack Ramos, who’s passed for 982 yards and six touchdowns despite missing most of two games with a concussion.
The Conquisadores, who have lost 22 straight games dating back to the middle of 2017, are building for next season with three other juniors at receiver: Cade McNamee, Hunter Barthel, and Tony Boneck. They’ve combined to make 69 catches for 919 yards and eight TDs.
“They’re going to give us everything they’ve got — they’ve got nothing to lose — and they’ve got some good young players,” Stone said. “My hat’s off to those guys.
“Anytime you’re struggling like that and you’ve got the same numbers, with guys showing up to play football, that’s huge. To me, that’s a great job by their coaching staff.
“We feel like they’ve got something to fight for and they’re going to come out and play us tough.”
SANTA YNEZ (3-5, 1-2) AT DOS PUEBLOS (2-6, 2-1): The Chargers would lock up a playoff berth with a win tonight. They could earn a Channel League co-championship by also winning next week when Santa Barbara comes to Scott O’Leary Stadium for their regular-season finale.
“We played a really difficult preseason, but they know it’s prepared them for this,” DP coach Doug Caines said.
Senior running back Udy Loza is coming off his best game of the season, having rushed for 144 yards and a touchdown in 18 carries in a 14-12 win over San Marcos.
Conner Lee made his first sustained appearance since suffering a chest injury in the Oct. 4 game against Cabrillo and responded with a TD run and several crucial tackles against the Royals.
Quarterback Josiah Severson is expected back tonight from his own injury. Linebacker Trent Jones ran the offense against San Marcos, completing 8-of-10 passes for 68 yards.
“He stepped in with all the injuries and, at first, it was a little bit of the deer-in-the-headlights kind of thing,” Caines said. “But with practice, he was able to get a full game better.”
Santa Ynez, which was snubbed of playoff berths in 2016 and 2017 despite 8-2 records both seasons, has a better chance of making the postseason this year even without a winning record. The Pirates have moved up to Division 8, where 16 of the 21 teams get berths.
They’ve been on the mend, as well, with the return of several key defensive players. Junior quarterback Bennett Redell has passed for 1,134 yards and 10 TDs while proving to be an adept scrambler. Camron Prendergast and Lars Ladnig lead the Pirates in receiving.
“Getting pressure on him is crucial,” Caines said. “We just have to make sure we line up and execute, and that the guys trust each other and stay in their zones.”
BISHOP DIEGO (3-5, 0-2) AT MOORPARK (2-6, 1-2): The Cardinals have lost four straight games since their 24-6 win at Nipomo, a game in which they lost starting quarterback Buddy Melgoza to a knee injury. They’ve also played their last three games against teams with a combined win-loss record of 22-3 and top-50 state rankings from MaxPreps.
Bishop can still take a big step tonight toward securing a CIF-SS playoff berth in Division 5, where only 21 schools compete for 16 spots.
The Cardinals are healthier for the task. All-Camino League linemen Toby Pouso’o and Jordan Tagaloa are both back from injuries, as is star sophomore receiver Sam Mikeale. Sophomore Michael Luckhurst also returned last week to play his first full game at quarterback to spell emergency starter Jackson Haskell.
“Buddy’s injury had a domino effect on our defense,” coach Tom Crawford said. “Jackson is a starting cornerback and Michael is a starting safety, and the injury forced us to pull one and then the other from the secondary.
“Michael’s return this past week certainly helped us. Hopefully, we’ve rid ourselves of our month of misery.”
Moorpark has played just as tough a schedule as Bishop. The Musketeers have a balanced offense led by three-year starting quarterback Blake Sturgill (1,417 yards passing), a 6-foot-2 and 205-pound senior who has thrown for nine TDs and rushed for another six.
“They do some nice things with him in a spread-type offense,” Crawford said. “They’re also big and impressive on the offensive line, which includes a USC commit. Their pass protection is really solid.”
Moorpark lineman Jonah Monheim (6-5, 290 pounds) turned down Oklahoma, Michigan, Auburn, Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame, Penn State and Oregon before committing to the Trojans.
LOMPOC (5-3, 2-1) AT SAN MARCOS (3-5, 1-2): The Royals, who haven’t been to the playoffs in 14 years, have a difficult road to the postseason year after last week’s detour against Dos Pueblos. With 46 teams in Division 12, they would need to finish at least second in the Channel League to make the 16-team bracket.
Coach Jason Fowle saw good things in his offense last week despite being held to two touchdowns by DP.
“A couple of penalties hurt us, a couple few mistakes hurt,” he said. “Other than that, we just ran out of time at the end.”
Quarterback Ben Partee is just 214 yards away from the school’s single-season passing record of 1,893 set by the late Cameron Ely during San Marcos’ last playoff season of 2005. He’s also within just 34 yards of Ely’s career mark of 3,527 yards, entering tonight’s game with 3,493.
Josh Brown, Partee’s sidekick for the last two seasons, leads the Royals with 54 catches for 750 yards and 13 TDs.
Lompoc, ranked No. 9 in Division 5, has a budding star at quarterback in freshman Cavin Ross, who’s passed for 1,225 yards and 14 TDs. Linebacker Jed Rantz leads the Braves’ defense with 59 tackles and five quarterback sacks.
CARPINTERIA (1-7, 0-4) AT VIEWPOINT (3-5, 1-0): The Warriors, who are finishing up their season with road games against non-league foes, will face the Patriots of the Gold Coast League at Calabasas High’s stadium.
Carpinteria, which is trying to end a six-game losing streak, is building for the future, especially with senior stars Will Collins and Jacob Macias both out for the season with injuries.
Juniors Diego Mendez and Tristan Kelly give coach Mario Robinson hope for the future. Mendez is coming off a 100-yard passing game in a 21-7 loss to Kennedy, with Kelly having rushed for 86 yards and a TD in just seven carries.
Viewpoint, led by dual-threat quarterback Niko Candido, is coming off wins of 47-34 over Campbell Hall and 33-6 over Cornerstone Christian.
CATE (4-2, 1-0) AT FAITH BAPTIST (6-1, 1-0): First place in the Mt. Pinos League will be at stake when the Rams travel to Canoga Park for the 6 p.m. showdown.
Cate is ranked No. 5 in the CIF-SS Eight-Man Division 1 poll while Faith is No. 4.
The Rams will conclude their regular season with their homecoming game on Saturday, Nov. 2 at 2:30 p.m. against rival Thacher. Faith Baptist edged Thacher 54-50 two weeks ago.