Santa Maria needed a spark.

So the Saints, unwillingly, turned to the guy who's provided that spark all season long.

After Carpinteria tied the game at 7-7 near the end of the first quarter, Blake Truhitte, Santa Maria's senior quarterback, went back to receive the ensuing kickoff.

Truhitte took the kick 99 yards for a touchdown. The Saints never looked back.

Santa Maria's football team ended a 23-year drought by winning its first postseason game since 1994 in Friday's 56-28 rout of Carpinteria. The Saints advanced to the quarterfinal round of the CIF Southern Section Division 12 playoffs, where they'll host top-seeded Schurr next Friday night.

"You guys are bringing a lot of that Santa Maria tradition back here," Saints coach Dan Ellington said to his team after the victory. "That was our goal three years ago, with the sophomores back then, we wanted to bring that Santa Maria tradition back and now it's here." 

Schurr moved to 10-1 on the season with a 49-14 win over Santa Ana Valley in its first-round game.

"Next week we're going to have to practice super hard. They're a good team from what I hear," Truhitte said of Schurr. "We're excited."

Truhitte accounted for seven touchdowns, throwing three, rushing for three and the kick return.

"Our line played really good tonight, they made some big blocks and played their best game of the year," Truhitte said. "Our backs and receivers did what they needed to do." 

Santa Maria, the Northern League champion, moved to 7-4 on the season. 

Truhitte had a spectacular first half.

The senior got the Saints on the scoreboard first with a 2-yard touchdown run to cap the first drive of the game and give the Saints a 7-0 lead. 

Truhitte then returned the kick 99 yards for a touchdown, providing the Saints with the spark after Carpinteria tied the game at 7-7 on a 7-yard pass from Vance Keiser to Terrell Richardson. 

Truhitte also had three first-half touchdown passes, the first two to John Rojas and the third to Gerardo Zul as the Saints built up a 35-14 halftime lead. 

Truhitte returned the kick because Rojas was out with an injury he suffered a few minutes earlier.

"John Rojas went down and we needed someone back there so I hopped in real quick and the kick return team made a couple blocks and I found the hole," Truhitte said. "I wasn't really surprised, I was just glad we scored and were up and able to move forward." 

Truhitte tacked on two rushing touchdowns in the second half for seven total touchdowns in the Saints' win. 

Santa Maria had not qualified for the postseason since 2001. Its last playoff win came when the 1-9 team defeated top-seeded Culver City in one of the most shocking upsets in the CIF Southern Section at the time. 

Santa Maria has another chance at an upset Friday night against Schurr, who'll make the trip to Santa Maria from Montebello.

Even though the Saints won in dominant fashion, Ellington thinks his team can still improve 11 games into the season.

"Eleven games ago, we kept saying we wanted a CIF championship," Ellington said, addressing his team. "Now it's just three games. One at a time. The biggest challenge of our season is next week. We didn't have the greatest week of practice, I wasn't sure why, and we didn't come out and play the type of football we're capable of, but we'll take care of that next week."

Frank Lopez and Bobby Ruiz also had short touchdown runs for the Saints. Truhitte led the Saints with 119 yards on 10 carries. 

Joe Bailey is the sports editor at Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Contact him with tips and story ideas at jbailey@leecentralcoastnews.com or (805) 739-2239. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jbaileysmsports

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Assistant Sports Editor

Alumni Fresno State