Hundreds of people in white shirts jumped and screamed in the Dons Den as captain captain of the football team, Miguel Unzueta, caught a pass from Abel Renteria for his first touchdown of the season to bring the Dons further ahead over their rivals, the San Marcos Royals. The big game’s best part was being played at the newly renovated Peabody Stadium at full capacity. As a rivalry game against the Royals it was a packed house, and the Dons came to play-and conquer, winning against SM, 40-7.
Football at Santa Barbara High School has always been popular, and with COVID-19 shutting down all sports, the Dons lost a huge gem last year. Even though the Dons were able to finally play a game at the Peabody stadium last season for the first time in years, the environment was not the same with a limited fan count due to COVID-19 regulations. to people staying safe over the summer, and school returning full time, the Dons were able to finally have a real season, and official home games.
What a better way to start a new, non-COVID affected season than with a home game? The Dons played their first game against Saugus, a very strong and well known football team, so the Dons initially knew it would be a battle. The Dons struggled throughout the game, and never truly seemed to be in control. Although the Dons may have gone scoreless and lost 35-0, the energy in the stadium was practically palpable, as every seat on the Dons side was filled. Even with a loss, everyone on and off the field was just happy that football was finally back and could finally be enjoyed in our own stadium for the first time in almost half a decade.
The Dons weren’t going to let that one game define their season, though, and were ready to attack the next week against Thousand Oaks. Proving that the Saugus game was a fluke, the dons beat Thousands Oaks 27-3 .Led by an amazing defensive effort by the Dons, the team did not allow their opponents to score even one touchdown. They continued their domination again the next week back home, wanting to prove to all of Santa Barbara that they’re a team to watch out for. They played against Righetti, a school well known for football. Yet, once again, the Dons proved statistics wrong and won easily. When the Dons got their first touchdown at home this season, the crowd erupted into cheers that could be heard miles away. Finally at full capacity, and in their own stadium, the Dons were able to score “for six” for the first time in what felt like forever. The feeling in the crowd was indescribable, and as the varsity football team took their last snaps for their first home game win of the season!
The next game would be one of the biggest of the Dons’ season, as they were playing against their rivals, the San Marcos Royals. The tickets for the game sold out for students within the first day they were released, everyone was planning on going to the game. It was the first home game against San Marcos the Dons had played in a long time, so the stands were set to be filled to capacity. The Dons did not disappoint too, as previously stated, they crushed the whole game in front of thousands of screaming fans. They never seemed to ease pressure on the Royals, who were only able to score once the entire game, and the game seemed to be over by half. All together, the big game was definitely worth the long lines to get in,the troubles of finding tickets, and will be memorable for years to come.
The Dons aimed to keep their winning streak, and momentum from the past few games alive as they moved onto playing away at Ventura High School. Ventura has a reputation of being a strong high school, and the game would be much more of a challenge than the Dons had faced in the past few weeks. The scores ricocheted back and forth throughout the whole game, and every time the Dons seemed to take a large lead or have an advantage, Ventura came back just as hard. It came down to the last play, with Ventura fifteen yards away from the end zone, and the Dons defense were able to stop the Cougars from coming back; securing the 28-21 win to add onto their win streak.
Players especially are so pumped to get back to playing normally and are trying to ease back into the intensity of a regular football season. When I asked a player how he felt about being back to a somewhat “normal” football year, he said, “It’s nice to have the energy back, playing in front of our fans is a feeling like no other. I haven’t been this excited to play a game in years, especially now with our new stadium. It is nerve-wracking though. This year is so much different than last year!” Last year, football was much more latent, it was an extremely short season, and hardly any fans were able to go. Now, there seems to be endless fans, and the team is going back to a long, and intense season, with the energy being given and received at an all time high . Returning athletes have had to adapt to a new type of environment with this season, as we finally get back to a new normal. But in the end, everyone involved in the Santa Barbara High School football program, whether that be playing or watching, are ready for what this season holds. Make sure to check out the Dons play at the Peabody Stadium, and cheer them on!
[Image Credit: Carlo Maguire]