Santa Maria's football team has been able to adapt throughout its postseason run.
That is a big reason why the Saints are playing for the school's first football divisional championship ever. Santa Maria is in a divisional football title for the first time since 1988.
Santa Maria will take on Big Bear, and the Bears' high-scoring triple option offense tonight and the Bears average 361 yards a game on the ground and 21 yards a game through the air. They average around 40 points a game.
Santa Maria's defense has shown this postseason that it can slow down pass-oriented and run-oriented attacks.
Meanwhile senior Santa Maria quarterback Blake Truhitte leads an offense that has scored a total of 140 points in three playoff games. The Saints average 295 yards a game on the ground and 159 yards a game through the air.
Truhitte has thrown for 2,115 yards and 25 touchdowns, and has rushed for 1,874 yards and 28 TDs.
Third-ranked Big Bear is 12-1. The Bears haven't lost since their first game this season. Eighth-ranked Santa Maria is 9-4. The Saints have won seven straight. The Bears won the Cross Valley League championship. The Saints won the Northern League title.
Big Bear has two 1,000-yard-plus rushers, Jesus Castro (1,279 yards, 18 rushing touchdowns on the year) and quarterback Chase Dowty (1,234 yards, 21 rushing touchdowns).
The Bears have two more backs who have run for more than 600 yards, Paul Hoag and Troy Dobis.
The Saints defeated Carpinteria 56-28 in the opening round, After that, Santa Maria's defense checked two high-powered offenses with different styles to reach the title game.
Pass-oriented No. 1 Montebello Schurr scored about half of its 40 points-per-game average as Santa Maria won 42-21 at home. Run-first No. 3 South El Monte managed to score just 14 points, after also averaging 40, as the Saints won 35-14 in the semifinals at South El Monte.
Saturday night, the Santa Maria defense will encounter something new for the unit, the triple option. The Bears rarely use the pass option, and they haven't done very well when they have. Big Bear is 12-for-44 on passes.
The Saints' defenders, particularly middle linebacker Frank Lopez and ends Gabriel Bravo and Gerardo Zul, must be able to hold their ground, shrug off blocks and stick to their assignments.
That figures to be easier said than done but, given the Saints' success at containing two good, and different, offenses the past two weeks, the task does not seem impossible.
Big Bear will need to slow down Santa Maria's offense.
The Saints usually like to go to the run first, and Truhitte's fake handoffs in the backfield have been troublesome for defenses.
Truhitte has done a lot for the Saints. Besides quarterbacking the offense, he's a key member of the defensive secondary and is the Saints' punter.
When Truhitte has handed off to Robert Ruiz, Ruiz has often delivered. The senior, who is also a key linebacker on defense, is at 1,000 yards even. Most of his yardage has come between the tackles.
John Rojas has also been a key defender for the Saints, and he has come on strong as a secondary receiver behind Johnathan Ramos, who is a key defensive back on defense,
As a receiver, the 6-foot-3 Ramos has 43 receptions for a total of 978 yards. He has nine touchdown catches, and Rojas has six.
The Saints have been able to answer the last two weeks after opponents gathered momentum.
Santa Maria scored the first 14 points against Schurr, the Spartans scored the next 21 and the Saints, after benefitting from a disastrous fourth-and-one snap from shotgun formation from the Saints' 12 put Santa Maria in business at its own 31, scored the last 28.
South El Monte scored 14 third-quarter points after the Saints had a 21-0 lead at halftime. The Saints countered with a touchdown drive, forced the Eagles to go three-and-out on the next series and then put the game away with another touchdown drive.
If either team is behind by more than one score with a few minutes left Santa Maria, because of the style of offense both teams run, figures to have the better chance to come away with the championship.
Wallace says tickets still available
Santa Maria athletic director Brian Wallace said in an email to the Times Friday night that tickets to the game are still available.
"We have sold 1,700 tickets at this point and we have plenty more," Wallace said in the email.
"Gates open at 5:45 p.m. (We) suggest that people come early to get tickets and go watch the parade. People with tickets can walk to the front of the line when the parade is over.
"The school has opened up additional parking on the softball field, and portable lighting will be brought in to accommodate everyone."