On the 14th try, a Santa Maria football team has a win over crosstown rival Pioneer Valley.

The Saints’ one big play from scrimmage was a 64-yard Dominick Martinez touchdown run around left end, a holding call wiped out a would-be touchdown pass from Panthers quarterback Danny Martinez to Christian Morin and the Saints edged the Panthers 10-6 at Pioneer Valley Friday night.

The Saints (5-5) won a chilly non-league regular season finale in front of a capacity crowd on Pioneer Valley’s Senior Night. The Panthers finished 1-9.

Particularly considering the circumstances, “This was the best our defense has played all year,” said Santa Maria defensive end Abel Santana, who was a big part of a big Santa Maria defensive effort.

“This will definitely give us momentum going into the playoffs.”

Santa Maria coach Dan Ellington indicated after the Saints beat Morro Bay last week that he would petition to get his team into the CIF Central Section Division 4 Playoffs and, at 5-5, the Saints seem certain to make the cut.

For Santana, the win was extra sweet because, “It came against my old team,” he said.

“I played at PV my freshman year. I got moved up to JV near the end of the year. My cousin (Pioneer Valley defensive tackle Tony Escobedo) was in this game.”

Escobedo helped lead a defensive surge that kept the Saints to 26 yards in the first half and, save the Martinez touchdown run, checked the Santa Maria attack for most of the second half, but it wasn’t quite enough.

It wasn’t quite enough because the holding foul cancelled the would-be Martinez 26-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Morin near the end of the third quarter.

A 13-yard Martinez to Morin pass on fourth down on the next play was shy of the first down, and the Panthers couldn’t come close to scoring after that.

After the Dominick Martinez touchdown run, Andres Vargas kicked the eventual winning extra point for the Saints. Vargas also kicked a 25-yard field goal in the fourth quarter after a drive stalled at the Panthers 8.

Pioneer Valley led 6-0 at halftime. Danny Martinez connected with Elias Martinez (yep, another Martinez) for a 17-yard touchdown pass near the end of the first half to cap an 80-yard scoring drive. The PAT kick missed.

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As the Panthers were trying to mount a last-ditch drive in the closing minutes, Danny Martinez, under a big rush, had to throw a pass that wound up well short of the line of scrimmage.

That resulted in an intentional grounding call that put the Panthers at second and 31 from their 9 and essentially sealed the outcome. The Panthers had to punt and the Saints, after getting a first down, ran out the clock.

The Saints were without Sammy Herrera, the second-leading rusher on the team behind Dominick Martinez and a big-play return man.

Herrera who has a 99-yard kickoff return for a score this season, was out with a broken wrist.

With Herrera out, the Panthers usually stopped the Saints’ read option attack.

The Santa Maria quarterback completed one pass, for 10 yards, and threw an interception.

He carried the ball 23 times for 127 yards unofficially, with 64 coming on the big scoring run.

Danny Martinez, with 59 yards, was the leading rusher for the Panthers who, unofficially, out-gained the Saints 225-145.

Playoff pairings are due out this weekend.

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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.