The oldest high school football rivalry in the Santa Maria Valley will be renewed Friday night when the Righetti Warriors hit the road for the short drive north to face the Santa Maria Saints.
The Warriors come into the game at 1-2 while the Saints are 2-1, but both head coaches say “this is one of those games where you can throw out the records.”
Santa Maria ended a 22-year losing streak to Righetti with a 22-20 victory in last year’s game.
Saints’ head coach Dan Ellington is planning on making it a two-game win streak.
“A lot of our guys were on our team last year. That gave us a shot of confidence and our players know they can win again,” Ellington said during Wednesday’s practice. “But it’s a whole new season. Even with a lot of guys back, we are both new teams. Righetti runs a whole new offense, a whole new defense. I think both teams are better. It will be a hard-fought battle.”
The Warriors are looking to rebound after two tough losses.
“We’re healthy, we’re good to go,” Righetti head coach Ed Herrmann said during Tuesday’s practice. “We’re going to line up, keep chopping wood and be ready to play. It should be a really good game.”
The Saints go into battle missing one of their key players.
Isiah Garcia, who stars on both offense and defense, was lost for the season with a torn ACL suffered late in the first half of last week’s 46-24 victory over Cabrillo.
“Our team is shaping up fine, but Isiah is out and that hurts,” said Ellington. “But we’ve moved some people around and I think we’ll be OK. Bobby Ruiz will move from our number two back to starter, Frank Lopez will still get his carries and we’ll get Kenny Dato into the backfield for the first time this year.”
Dato moved up from junior varsity this year but has yet to play because of an injury.
“Kenny is good to go. He’s a strong runner and will get some time at running back,” Ellington said. “And we can use him as an outside linebacker on defense. That will give us the chance to move Ruiz out to safety to cover Isiah’s spot.”
Quarterback Blake Truhitte is the catalyst for Santa Maria’s powerful offense.
“Blake is healthy, excited – he’s having a good year. He’s on the same page as (offense coordinator) coach Matt Andree. Blake knows the offense so well that I think he could call the game on his own, he’s a high IQ quarterback.”
This is Truhitte’s third year running the offense, a “zone read spread.”
“Blake is patient back there,” said Ellington. “He knows what he’s looking for. If he sees an opening, he’ll hand the ball off to the running back. If there’s no hole there, he’ll pull it back and run it himself.”
In last week’s win over Cabrillo, Truhitte ran the ball 14 times for 195 yards – an average of nearly 14 yards a carry. Ruiz was just as dangerous, picking up 115 yards on 15 carries.
Although their offense is run oriented, Truhitte is accurate when he sets up to pass.
Truhitte favors the long ball with most of the deep shots going to Jonathan Ramos. Truhitte and Ramos teamed up for three huge completions last week of 54, 35 and 26 yards with the last two going for touchdowns.
Ramos also leads a tough Santa Maria defense.
“Jonathan has been our most outstanding defender this season,” Ellington said. “He’s long, athletic, got a ton of experience. But Frank Lopez has done a great job at middle linebacker, too, and our defensive front four has been one of our strengths.”
The Saints won’t know which offense they’ll face until the teams take the field – the one that put up 47 points against Morro Bay in a 47-7 victory on Week Zero or the one that has struggled to score in 40-14 and 24-0 losses to St. Joseph and Dos Pueblos, respectively, the last two weeks.
“We got off to a good start against Morro Bay, that was a pretty good win for us,” said Herrmann. “Unfortunately, we took a step back against St. Joe. I thought we played a great game against Dos Pueblos – they are an experienced, talented team with probably the biggest players we’ll see all year but we made too many mistakes and had too many penalties. We’ll have to fix that this week.”
Junior Brandon Giddings rifled a 72-yard touchdown pass to Julian Leon on his first-ever varsity pass in the Week Zero opener against Morro Bay.
Leon also caught a 28-yard TD pass and Jalen Davis had a 19-yard touchdown reception in that game.
Running backs Derek Imel, Adon Solis, Isaiah Gayfield and Damien Robles each had touchdown runs that capped long drives.
The game is the Santa Maria Times High School Football Game of the Week. Sports Editor Joe Bailey and sports reporter Lorenzo J. Reyna will call the action. The live webcast begins at 6:45 p.m. at santamariatimes.com. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.