Santa Barbara High School’s football team fell off the see-saw it was riding with Newport Harbor in the first half of Friday’s CIF-SS Division 6 quarterfinal game and could never get back on.
After twice trading scores with the Sailors, the Golden Tornado gave up three touchdowns in a span of 2 minutes and 36 seconds in the second quarter.
Santa Barbara never recovered and was bounced out of the playoffs, losing 49-14 in the first postseason game at the renovated Peabody Stadium.
Santa Barbara finished the season at 8-4. Newport Harbor advances to the semifinals with a 5-7 record.
The Golden Tornado tied the score at 14-14, when sophomore quarterback Abel Renteria threw a beautiful fade pass to senior wide receiver Trent Williams on a third-and-goal from the 2 and Jeffrey Lechuga kicked the PAT.
Newport Harbor answered with a 58-yard drive, capped by a 1-yard Henry Slater run and a Jon Richardson PAT, to go ahead 21-14.
The Sailors then made the play of the game on defense. Sophomore Josiah Lamarque intercepted a pass over the middle and returned it 23 yards for a touchdown, extending the lead to 28-14.
The Sailors forced Santa Barbara to punt and, after a pass interference penalty, quarterback AJ Guitron-Moore hit Lamarque on a 13-yard touchdown pass for a 35-14 advantage with seven seconds left in the first half.
“We just couldn’t stop their offense. What they were doing was great,” Santa Barbara coach JT Stone said. “But we were 14-14 in the game. I just think when we threw that interception, we went downhill from there.
“We didn’t play well, we couldn’t get a stop. We didn’t play well on both sides of the ball.”
Guitron-Moore’s brilliant play at quarterback for the Sailors made it a tough night for Santa Barbara’s defense. The sophomore completed 19 of 20 passes for 238 yards and five touchdowns.
Santa Barbara running back Koa Herrera races down field for a 6-yard touchdown on a screen pass. (Gary Kim / Noozhawk photo)
Junior receiver Kashton Henjum caught 11 passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns and Lemarque, a sophomore, hauled in three TD passes to go with the back-breaking pick-6. He had five receptions for 115 yards.
“We saw some things that gave some opportunities in the pass game early,” said Newport Harbor coach Peter Lofthouse, who will take his 5-7 team in next week’s semifinals. “Joshia Lamarque had a hell of a first half, and Kashton Henjum was clutch. They started trying to overcorrect with Larmarque and that opened up Kash on the backside. So, we were able to get Kash going.
“When we find that kind of balance in our offense, we’re just really a capable team. And that showed tonight.”
Newport Harbor came out flying at the start after Santa Barbara was hit with two major penalties on the opening kickoff. The first one was illegally catching its pooch kick.
The Sailors took over at the 50, converted on a pair of fourth-and-1 plays and scored on a 28-yard pass from Guitron-Moore to Henjum for a 7-0 led at 7:42 of the first quarter.
Santa Barbara went three and out on its first possession, but the Golden Tornado got the ball back when Beniccio Holland Garcia recovered a Sailors fumble after a bad snap.
The Golden Tornado capitalized on the turnover as running back Koa Herrera caught a screen pass and rambled 36 yards for the touchdown. Lechuga kicked the PAT to tie the score at 7-7 at 2:14 of the first quarter.
Guitron-Moore came right back and hit Lemarque for a 63-yard scoring strike for a 14-7 Newport Harbor lead with 1:26 left in the quarter.
The game looked like it was going to be a shootout.
Renteria went deep and Trent Williams made a terrific catch for a 36-yard gain to put Santa Barbara at the 3. Three plays later, Renteria and Williams combined on the fade pass for the tying score.
Guitron-Moore continued to have success throwing the ball against the Golden Tornado secondary. He combined with Henjum on five passes for 27 yards on a 58-yard drive that ended with the 1-yard Slater TD run to put the Sailors ahead for good at 2:43 of the second quarter.
The crushing pick-6 by Lemarque came next.
“We’ve been stressing it to the boys that we’ve been playing really good teams in the preseason and played a lot of really good teams in league,” Lofthouse said. “We told them that (the playoffs) is going to be an opportunity for us to play teams that we’re very capable of beating. It all starts with playing four quarters and a great work week of practice.”
Leading 35-14 going into the second half, the Sailors wore down the Santa Barbara defense with their running game. Slater reeled off runs of 15, 32 and 8 yards to set up a Guitron-Moore 5-yard touchdown pass to Henjum for a 42-14 lead with 8:56 to go in the third quarter.
Meanwhile, Santa Barbara’s offense sputtered.
Renteria was 11 of 24 passes for 134 yards, one interception and two touchdowns. Herrera was the leading rusher with 71 yards on eight carries.
“I feel like we didn’t compete the way we should have tonight, being that this is a playoff game. But that’s something we got to get better at,” Stone said. “My hat’s off to Newport Harbor. They called an excellent game on both sides of the ball.
“But I do feel like we shot ourselves in the foot a thousand times over.”
Santa Barbara was hurt by penalties in the first half, getting whistled for 10 for 91 yards.
The penalties put the Golden Tornado in second- and third-and-long situations.
“When you’re in a playoff game, everything’s got to work. You know it’s not going to be perfect, but you got to execute. And this team, Newport Harbor, executed all the damn plays,” Stone said. “If we’re going to play playoff-caliber football, we just got to be better. We weren’t where we were supposed to be tonight.”