Saints fans

Santa Maria fans cheer after the Saints took an early lead against Schurr in the second round of CIF football playoffs Friday night.

Len Wood,Staff

The Santa Maria High football team will be practicing on Thanksgiving.

On Friday night in front of thousands of supporters at Ralph Baldiviez Stadium, the Saints stunned top-seeded Schurr of Montebello, advancing to the semifinals of the playoffs for the first time since 1988. 

After the final whistle sounded on the 42-21 win, alumni who graduated decades ago gathered on the field, joined by parents of current players and hundreds of other Santa Marians, locals who were once again proud of the Saints' football program after decades of mediocrity. 

Did Dan Ellington, Santa Maria's head coach, see this day ever coming when he came to the school three years ago?

"Realistically?" Ellington asked. "I always had hope, to be honest with you, but my goal was just to be competitive. Where we're at now, it's unbelievable really. It's hard to take it all in right now. I always tell the kids that players make plays. And we've got some guys who made plays tonight."

Many didn't want to go home after the Saints' come-from-behind victory, basking in the palpable glow that comes to a community with a successful football team. 

"I think everyone who has been a part of this is feeling great, of course," Ellington added. "This is going to help the school and the football program in the long run. For so many years Santa Maria has been down. Now everyone knows that if you want to come to Santa Maria, there's a good football program here."

What's next for the Saints? A road trip to face South El Monte in the Division 12 semifinals. What does this all mean for the athletic programs at the school?

"Just having people at a football game at Santa Maria High School is something we didn't have four years ago," said Brian Wallace, the school's athletic director. "We didn't have these opportunities. To actually get a win out of it, we'll see the benefits of this win for years to come. It's huge. It's a really good feeling. Look around. Everyone is still here, nobody wants to go home yet."

Wallace said he's been preparing for a football run for the past several years, making sure the school had the resources to support a successful football program. 

"I planned for this years ago," Wallace said. "I don't care about the money at all. It's all about what you see in front of you, all these people coming out here and taking pictures and having fun. We've got people wearing old letterman jackets and we've got guys I've never met before shaking my hand because they were on the '72 team. We've got old coaches coming back. There were probably 30 teachers on the sideline who haven't been to a game in four years. 

"The benefits of this go well beyond the financial aspect. It's all about school spirit and getting the community feeling good about itself."

Jamar Tell, a junior varsity coach at Santa Maria High, graduated from Santa Maria in 1991 and was a member of the 1988 team that lost to San Marino 19-11 in the Div. VII championship game. 

"You've got to love this," Tell said. "I was born and raised here and back in '88 when we went to the championship I was on the team. It's just exciting and we're going to keep it going and bring the tradition back. This program got here by working seven days a week. We keep these kids together. That's the main thing. The next week is going to be intense and we just want the community to back us up on it. Everyone wants to follow us now that we're coming up after we had it rough for awhile. We stuck with it."

Wallace said he hopes the community isn't done supporting the program and will make the long trip to Los Angeles County.

"I hope the student body and the fans can make the long trip out there because it's going to be worth watching," he said. "If you think this is fun, next week is going to be better."

Joe Bailey is the sports editor at Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Contact him with tips and story ideas at jbailey@leecentralcoastnews.com or (805) 739-2239. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jbaileysmsports

0
0
0
0
0

Load comments