The oldest football rivalry in the Santa Maria Valley doesn’t have a name.
There’s the Battle for the Helmet (Righetti vs. Pioneer Valley), Battle for the Shield (Righetti vs. St. Joseph) and the Main Street Melee (Santa Maria vs. Pioneer Valley — although neither team is actually on Main Street) but the oldest rivalry is simply known as Righetti vs. Santa Maria.
"Maybe we should give it a name," Santa Maria head coach Dan Ellington said to me while I was visiting the Saints' practice Wednesday.
Ellington has been involved in the rivalry since his days as a football player at Righetti.
He's been on both sides of the rivalry’s biggest streaks — Righetti’s snapping an 18-game losing streak to Santa Maria and Santa Maria’s dramatic ending to a 22-year losing streak to the Warriors.
Santa Maria High, which opened in the fall of 1891, fielded its first football team in 1919.
Righetti didn’t come along until 1962 and while the school had a football team for a short season that year, the Warriors didn’t face the Saints until 1963.
That first year, Righetti played three games — one against Mission Prep and two against Morro Bay.
So it was 1963 when the Santa Maria/Righetti football rivalry began.
At first, it was all Saints — Santa Maria won the first 18 meetings between the schools.
But in 1981, the Warriors ended that losing streak.
“I was on that team that beat Santa Maria in 1981,” Ellington, a 1982 Righetti graduate, told me. “We’d lost 18 straight. Winning — that was a big day.”
The tables turned by the mid-90s and in 1995, Righetti started a very long winning streak — going 22 years without a loss to the Saints.
Santa Maria broke that streak last year with a 22-20 victory at Warriors Stadium.
“I actually had no idea how long it had been since we’d beaten Righetti until after the game,” said Ellington.
Santa Maria is favored to make it two straight.
The Saints are 2-1 with impressive wins over San Luis Obispo and Cabrillo sandwiched around a loss to Santa Barbara. Righetti is 1-2 with a season-opening win over Morro Bay followed by losses to St. Joseph and Dos Pueblos.
Although Santa Maria lost star running back/defensive back Isiah Garcia in last week’s win over Cabrillo, the Saints have the more experienced offense.
This is senior quarterback Blake Truhitte's third year running Ellington’s zone-read spread offense. Even without Garcia, the Saints will have talented and experienced backs Robert Ruiz and Frank Lopez running the ball and Jonathan Ramos receiving. Ruiz, Lopez and Ramos also anchor a ball-hawking defense.
The Warriors also have a lot of talent but lack the experience and depth of the Saints.
Junior quarterback Brandon Giddings is in his first season leading the offense.
He’ll be backed up by some talented runners — Damien Robles, Derek Imel, Isaiah Gayfield and Adon Solis — with Jalen Davis the prime receiving threat.
“At this point, there are no secrets,” said Ellington. “They know our offense, our defense — they’ve seen the tapes. We have a good idea of what to expect from them. It’s a rivalry game — anything can happen. It should be a good game.”
Ellington is right — it should be a good game — but I think the Saints have the edge.
I’m picking the Saints to make it two straight — 35-21.
Note: You can watch the game live at santamariatimes.com. It's our Santa Maria Times High School Game of the Week with Joe Bailey and Lorenzo J. Reyna's pregame show beginning at 6:56 p.m. and kickoff set for 7 p.m.