Santa Ynez had one of the better seasons in the area this past fall. 

The Pirates didn't win a league championship or make a playoff run, they were just consistently solid from the opening week to the final whistle, finishing 8-3. 

A big part of the Pirates' success in 2021 was the team's defense. And a big part of that defense was senior linebacker Mikey Gills. 

The Pirates allowed seven points or fewer in five games this past season, allowing an average of 15 points per game. 

The Santa Ynez defense was fundamentally sound, with a consistent group of contributors that filled various roles. Gills' role on the defense was to tackle the ball-carrier, and that he did.

Gills finished with 127 total tackles on the season, making a team-high 42 solo stops and recording 85 assists. He also had eight tackles-for-loss. He averaged just under 13 tackles a game. 

For his efforts leading the Santa Ynez defense, Gills has been selected as the Santa Maria Times' All-Area Defensive Player of the Year. 

Gills was the "heart and soul" of the Pirate defense, according to Santa Ynez coach Josh McClurg. 

"He's a relentless competitor that never quit," McClurg added of Gills. 

The 6-foot-3, 200-pound linebacker made 209 total tackles in 20 career games with the Pirates, with 14 TFLs, four sacks, an interception, three forced fumbles and four blocked kicks. 

Gills had double-digit tackles in all 11 games this past season, registering 15 or more tackles three times. In his final game with the Pirates, Gills had 16 tackles (9 solo) in a playoff loss to Wildomar Elsinore.

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Gills led a dominant Pirate defense that smothered in offenses, recording 13 tackles in a 10-7 win over Nordhoff and 12 more in a 48-7 win over Santa Maria.

The Pirates' best win was the 34-30 victory over Lompoc, the first win against the Braves for Santa Ynez since 2009. Gills had 11 tackles and 2.5 TFLs in that win. He had 15 tackles in a 23-7 win over Ventura and 11 more in a 47-7 win over Channel Islands. He finished the regular season with a 10-tackle performance in a 42-6 win over San Marcos.

Gills was named a First Team All-Area linebacker after making 46 yackles in five games in the spring as a junior. He had five TFLs then. Gills played in five games on the varsity level as a sophomore in 2019 and made 36 total tackles.

Gills said having a successful spring season roll right into his senior season in the fall acted as a springboard to the big season he had.

"I preferred it because we got right back into things," Gills said. "I remembered all my defensive plays. The team was already together. We just had a quick break and were back at it."

Gills follows in a long line of linebackers to earn the Times' All-Area Defensive Player of the Year honor, joining St. Joseph's Jayce Gamble, who won the honor after leading the Knights' defense in the spring of 2021. 

Nipomo linebacker Jesse Garza was named the Defensive Player of the Year in 2019. Lompoc's Leondre Coleman was named the DPOY in 2018.

Stay tuned as we announce the complete 2021 All-Area Team, which includes the First and Second Team defenses. The All-Area team is chosen by Santa Maria Times sports editor Joe Bailey.

Gills was also named the Pacific View League Defensive Player of the Year.

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