The Santa Barbara High football team knows all too well how much Noach Wood can disrupt an offense.
The San Marcos Royals learned that firsthand Friday night, as Wood led a stout defensive attack to lead the Dons to a 38-6 victory in the Big Game.
The senior recorded a pair of sacks, multiple tackles-for-loss and was in the backfield more often than not, as he went on to capture the Gary Blades Memorial “Big Game” Most Valuable Player Award.
“He’s the best D-tackle in the Channel League and the 805,” Dons quarterback Deacon Hill said. “He just blows through (the line) and you can’t do anything about it. He’s my best friend too and he’s the best player we’ve got on that defense.”
Wood’s performance in front of a large crowd at La Playa Stadium was no surprise to Don’s coach J.T. Stone, who said college coaches have been sleeping on Wood when it comes to recruiting.
“This is a Division 1 football player,” Stone said. “He’s such a dominant force that you have to double this kid… he’s the anchor of our defense.
“Everything you see out here, he does in practice. I hate practicing against him. He drives me nuts.”
Wood was able to keep the heat on Royals quarterback Ben Partee throughout the game, fighting through double teams to create pressure.
“What worked best for me was when I was in a one technique (between the center and guard),” he said. “I just shot off the ball as quick as I could and just got past the center.”
In capturing the MVP trophy, Wood became the first defensive player to earn the honor since Robert Palmer in 2010 – who led the Dons to a 6-0 victory of San Marcos nine years ago.
The scariest part? Wood admitted post game that he’s been battling a hip flexor injury that has limited his lateral quickness. How good can he be when he’s at full strength?
“I don’t know,” he said with a smile. “That’s a good question… I wish I had the answer.”
The Dons (4-2, 1-0) were able to earn their first Channel League victory in large part due to their rushing attack. Sophomore Ty Montgomery had 87 yards rushing on 11 carries, including a pair of touchdowns. Junior Justin Perez added 72 yards on 10 carries and a TD.
“We don’t want to have to rely on Deacon every time,” Stone said. “If we’re going to get far in the playoffs and if we’re going to go anywhere, we’re going to have to run the football. I think the past couple of games we’ve had our kids were able to play against some tough competition – not to say San Marcos wasn’t – but it was good to see the O-line be able to move guys around a little bit.”
Montgomery and Perez opened the scoring for the Dons to push them to a 13-0 advantage.
“Those are our workhorses,” Stone said of his backfield duo. “We ask a lot of those guys… we’re going to continue to ask a lot of those guys the rest of the way and we expect them to do exactly what they did tonight.”
Hill threw an interception with 10:56 to go in the second quarter and San Marcos was able to take advantage of the sudden change opportunity. Partee found his go-to target Josh Brown for a five-yard touchdown with 7:16 left in the half to make it 13-6.
The Dons opened the second half with the ball and scored on an eight-yard run by Montgomery with 8:46 left in the third quarter to make it 19-6.
With 2:29 left in the third, Hill rolled to his left, bought time in the pocket and found senior Moki Nacario running in the back of the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown. It was an impressive throw by the signal caller, who admitted that he let his emotions get the best of him in the early going.
“I just wasn’t technically sound in the first half,” he said. “I got caught up in all the hype and that just took over… but in the second half we just calmed down and took over.”
Hill would finish with 188 yards passing. He completed 13 of his 20 pass attempts – including a pair of second half touchdowns. With 8 minutes to go in the game, Hill found wideout Jack Knecht for a 26-yard score.
Knecht was limited due to a thumb injury he suffered during the team’s bye week, but was still able to contribute in the victory.
With 5:22 left, senior Jackson Gonzalez scored on a 42-yard punt return, which he said was his first special teams touchdown and the first for the team since he’s been on varsity.
“I got chewed out at half for fair catching (the punt) right before and I was just thinking ‘I can’t fair catch this one, there’s no chance,’” he said. “I just caught it, Moki (Nacario) gave me a good block and I just took it back.”
For San Marcos (2-4, 0-1) the final score was not an indication on how close the game really was. Going into the halftime break down by one score, coach Jason Fowle said his team its opportunities.
“I think we had a few get away from us late,” he said. “Even their first couple of scores in the second half, we felt like that we were playing at the pace that we wanted to play. Everything was in our reach… they’re a good team. We just didn’t execute when the opportunities were there and our guys know it.”
Senior Lance Sterndahl had an interception and helped keep the Royals in the game early on. The team was plagued by turnovers, throwing an interception and losing two fumbles.
Partee finished 13 for 23 passing for 138 yards and two TDs – both to Brown. The wideout finished with 50 yards on five receptions.
“He had some plays that he could have executed better,” Fowle said of Partee. “He’s a competitor and I can’t fault him for that. He’s running around and giving us his all. that’s all I can ask for.”
Henry Herrera had 59 yards rushing on 18 carries and added 44 yards receiving.
“I feel like we got away from him a little bit,” Fowle said. “They did a good job and gave us some different looks and stopped the run and then we tried to get back to him. We try to incorporate him in the passing game and do what we can to get him the ball.”
Fowle said he is still looking for other guys to rise to the challenge.
“We can’t just rely on those guys,” he said, referring to Brown, Partee and Herrera. “They’re good players, but we need everybody to come together and everybody should want to be in that situation where they’re going to make the play and step up.”
The Royals will return home next week to take on Cabrillo, as the team will celebrate its senior class.
Santa Barbara will host Santa Ynez at Dos Pueblos High next week.