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Central Coast Classic: Santa Maria football's thrilling road win at South El Monte in CIF semifinals

Central Coast Classic: Santa Maria football's thrilling road win at South El Monte in CIF semifinals

 In 2017, a Santa Maria football team qualified for a sectional divisional championship football game for the first time this century.

To get there, the Saints scored a convincing semifinal win on the road.

Quarterback Blake Truhitte ran for four scores, threw for another and the defense checked a high-powered South El Monte offense as the Saints won this CIF Southern Section Division 12 semifinal 35-14 at South El Monte High School.

Santa Maria fans started filing into the visitors side of the stadium hours before kickoff. After the game started, the Saints gave their fans plenty to cheer about.

“These kids just find a way to win,” Santa Maria coach Dan Ellington said afterward. “Our defense was playing great and our offensive line really opened some holes for our backs to run through.”

Santa Maria defensive linemen Gabriel Bravo, Jason Sanchez and end Gerardo Zul helped the Saints contain an offense that has been averaging more than 40 points a game for the second straight week.

“We knew they were run-oriented just like we are, they’re battle tested just like we are and we knew we had to stop the run first,” Bravo said.

Santa Maria defeated a higher seed for the second week in a row. The eighth-ranked Saints knocked out top-ranked Montebello Schurr the week before.

The Saints held star Eagles back Sal Tovar to 50 yards in the first half, but Tovar broke loose for a 58-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second half.

The Eagles drew within 21-14 when Daniel Olmos hit Jarvis Alexander-Godinez for an 11-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter.

The Saints re-gained the momentum when they answered with a 67-yard scoring drive. Truhitte finished it with an 11-yard touchdown run.

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The Saints forced the Eagles to go three-and-out the next series, Truhitte scored on a 17-yard run and the Saints were on their way.

Tovar rushed for more than 2,000 yards that year. The Saints kept him to a fairly quiet 134.

“It was just a matter of knowing the formations,” said Sanchez. “They’d go to the ‘I’, the single back. We knew what they were going to do.”

Bravo and others credited the scout team. “They gave us some beautiful looks in practice of what the opponent is going to do,” Bravo said.

Truhitte ran for 177 yards. Robert Ruiz had another 75. Jon Ramos had seven receptions for 110 total yards. He caught a 54-yard touchdown pass from Truhitte.

Santa Maria bolted to a 21-0 halftime lead in its first semifinal playoff appearance since 1988.

Truhitte scored from three yards out on the first series of the game, the Eagles went three-and-out then Truhitte sprinted into the end zone from 43 yards out. Ramos caught the big touchdown pass in the second quarter.

The defense kept the Eagles to 104 yards of offense in the first half. John Rojas blocked a 32-yard South El Monte field goal try shortly before intermission.

Big Bear beat the Saints at Santa Maria’s Ralph Baldiviez Stadium in the championship game, ending Santa Maria’s seven-game winning streak. Most of the area sports programs, including Santa Maria, moved to the Central Section the following year.

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Sports Reporter

Kenny Cress, sportswriter for the Santa Maria Times since September of 2000. BA in political science from Cal Poly Pomona. BA in journalism from Cal State Northridge.

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