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The bye week for their Santa Maria football team, twins Gerardo and Jesus Zul said, came at a perfect time this year.

Santa Maria won seven straight after that bye week before losing 37-23 to Big Bear in the CIF Southern Section Division 12 championship game. The Saints' 7-0 run included a 3-0 Northern League campaign that netted Santa Maria the league championship. Santa Maria finished 9-5 overall.

"We just had a talk after that, and the bye week helped a lot of guys get healthy," said Gerardo Zul.

"After that we started winning, we won (the league championship) and we just kept it going."

The Zuls are part of a heavy Santa Maria representation on the 2017 Lee Central Coast News All-Area Football Team. Gerardo is the Lineman of the Year. Jesus is a lineman on the First Team Offense. Gerardo was a tight end-defensive end for the Saints. Jesus was the center and a defensive tackle.

Besides Gerardo Zul, some other top All-Area winners included Toa Taua of Lompoc (Offensive Player of the Year), Gabe Prendergast of Santa Ynez (Defensive Player of the Year) and Caleb Thomas of Righetti (All-Purpose Player of the Year).

All except Thomas, a junior, are seniors.

Taua and senior teammate Shemar Savage, an All-Area First Team wide receiver, were the co-MVPs of the Los Padres League as they helped lead Lompoc to another LPL championship.

Taua ran for 1,673 yards and 26 touchdowns. Savage had 795 yards worth of receptions, caught 11 touchdown passes and, in the secondary, was a leader for the Braves' defense.

Thomas was the PAC 5 League MVP for a third-place Righetti team. The tight end-defensive tackle had a big year on both sides of the ball.

Gerardo Zul was Santa Maria's tackles for loss leader with 18 and the team's sacks leader with 14. Prendergast, the Los Padres League's Offensive Back of the Year, was a leader for a good Santa Ynez defense and intercepted three passes. 

Gerardo and Jesus Zul both said the bye week helped the Saints get things together after a 49-12 defeat at Santa Ynez in their last non-league game, their third straight loss, put them at 2-4.

Jesus Zul said, "The bye week came at just the right time, especially since we were able to get some guys healthy.

"Getting guys healthy definitely helped the offensive line open some holes to get our between-the-tackles running game going."

Santa Maria's offense really gathered steam in the playoffs. The Saints scored 56, 42 and 35 points in their three playoff wins before falling to Big Bear.

The Zuls said they will both go to Hancock College next school year.They also said they were unsure at this point whether they will play football there or not.

Jesus Zul is part of a Santa Maria All-Area First Team contingent that includes his fellow offensive lineman, Jesus Joaquin, Robert Ruiz at running back, Johnathan Ramos, the Northern League All-Purpose Player of the Year, at wide receiver, Gabriel Bravo on the defensive line and Frank Lopez at linebacker.

All except Joaquin are seniors. Joaquin is a junior. Lompoc sophomore Jacob Nunez, St. Joseph junior Jakob Hernandez and Santa Ynez senior Nick Tipolt join Joaquin and Jesus Zul on the First Team Offensive Line.

Nunez was the Los Padres League's Offensive Lineman of the Year.

The First Team quarterback is St. Joseph senior Dino Maldonado. Maldonado threw for 3,125 yards this year. He tossed 33 touchdown passes and nine interceptions.

The running backs are Ruiz, St. Joseph senior Jayden Vargas and Arroyo Grande junior James Gilmet. Vargas ran for 1,668 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2017, and Ruiz and Gilmet both rushed for more than 1,000 yards.

The wide receivers are Ramos, Savage and St. Joseph senior Nate Guzman. Ramos and Guzman both had more than 1,000 yards in receptions.

The punter is Nipomo junior Ricky Iniguez. The All-Purpose Player is Lompoc senior Johnny Manzo, the LPL All-Purpose Player of the Year.

The linemen on the First Team Defense include seniors Bravo, Gabe Palato of Santa Ynez, Simon Rodriguez of Nipomo, Dominic Saccullo of Santa Ynez and Jose Perez of Arroyo Grande.

Rodriguez and senior teammate Jedu Matautia-Reyes were the Northern League's co-All-Purpose Players of the Year. Matautia-Reyes is a First Team All-Area Defensive Back. Palato was the Los Padres League Defensive Lineman of the Year.

The linebackers on the First Team defense include Lopez, Lompoc seniors Jelani Henderson and Ruben Cortez, and St. Joseph senior Tim Miller.

Henderson and Cortez were the Los Padres League's co-Defensive Backs of the Year.

The First Team defensive backs include Matautia-Reyes, his teammate, Gage Wynn, Michael McLean of Arroyo Grande and Jimmy Gardner of Lompoc. All are seniors.

The First Team kicker is Pioneer Valley junior Edgar Zacarias.      

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Sports Reporter