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Elliott Stern

Are you ready for some football — and girls golf, girls tennis, girls volleyball, boys water polo, boys and girls cross country and boys and girls rodeo?

The Santa Ynez High Pirates are hard at work, getting ready for the fall season in all those sports.

As usual, the fall season begins with a month still left in the summer but let’s not pick nits.

Water polo kicks off the action with the team’s annual Alumni Game on Saturday, Aug. 17, at 12 p.m.

“We usually get a good showing — about 20 alumni come every year — and they’ll go up against our varsity,” said boys’ water polo head coach Jake Kalkowski on his team’s first official day of fall practice. “We actually make our quarters a couple minutes longer than usual so we can get everyone in the game.”

The varsity water polo team kicks off its regular season a week later with a two-day tournament at Arroyo Grande High on Aug. 23-24.

After that, it’s everyone in the pool, so to speak.

Girls volleyball is actually the first team to see action with three home games in three nights to open its season, Tuesday, Aug. 20 (vs. Orcutt Academy), Wednesday, Aug. 21 (vs. Mission Prep) and Thursday, Aug. 22 (vs. Nipomo).

Girls golf hosts its annual Pirate Invitational at the River Course at The Alisal on Monday, Aug. 26 and girls tennis begins the next day, Tuesday, Aug. 27, when Pioneer Valley visits Santa Ynez.

Football opens Friday night, Aug. 24, when the Nipomo Titans visit Santa Ynez — it’s a good thing the games is at Santa Ynez since the Titans’ home field is still undergoing a total renovation.

Cross country is the final one to get things going at the UCSB Gaucho Invitational, on Wednesday, Aug. 31.

And let’s not forget Santa Ynez High School’s rodeo athletes.

The school doesn’t actually have a team. The cowgirls and cowboys compete for the The Magnificent 7 — the District 7 team of the California High School Rodeo Association (CHSRA) as part of one big team representing Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Ventura Counties.

Santa Ynez High junior Gracie Lopez is the reigning girls cutting state champion and finished seventh in the world at the recent High School National Finals Rodeo.

The first high school and junior high school rodeo of the season is over the weekend of Sept. 21-22 at the Parkfield Arena.

Football is still the king of the fall.

Family and fans pack the stands for all Pirates’ home games.

I go to cover the games. My wife Marily comes along to keep my stats, so we make it a working date night — and we always take time to savor the tri-tip sandwiches.

But, if you get the chance, you should take in all the action, not just football.

As a reporter, I try to get to as many of the sports as I can.

I have to admit, rodeo is my favorite but water polo comes in a close second.

And you can’t beat the intensity and athleticism you see on the volleyball and tennis courts.

Cross country is an endurance test over all kinds of courses in all kinds of temperatures and you’ll be amazed at the shot making skills of the girls on the golf course.

Santa Ynez’s home course is the River Course which provides you with a picture-perfect background for all the action.

As a journalist, I root for good competition. I can’t and don’t play favorites.

But as a fan, I have a soft spot for all things Pirate.

My high school mascot was a pirate from the pirate town of Hull, Mass., the northernmost town in Plymouth County (home of the Rock) which, if you check Google Maps, you’ll see sticks out into the Atlantic Ocean. Hull High actually has the Atlantic Ocean on three of its four sides.

So, go Pirates. And you go to the games. The athletes appreciate your support and, win or lose; you’ll see some amazing games.

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Senior Sports Reporter

Elliott Stern has worked at Lee Central Coast Newspapers for the last 18 years after more than 30 years working in television and radio news and sports.