For the second time in the CIF Southern Section Playoffs (OK, the span between the two times is 23 years), a Santa Maria football team has knocked out the top overall seed.
The Saints ran away from top-ranked Montebello Schurr late in the second half Friday night, scoring the last 28 points in route to a 42-21 stunner in the Division 12 quarterfinals at Santa Maria's Ralph Baldiviez Stadium.
In 1994, with one win going in, the Saints beat top-ranked Culver City in the first round. They lost in the next round.
This time, Santa Maria will play at South El Monte next Friday night in the semifinals. Kickoff is tentatively set for 7:30 p.m.
"We worked hard in practice this week," said Santa Maria senior Blake Truhitte. "This was a great team win."
Truhitte ran for 262 yards, passed for 139 more at quarterback and helped lead a secondary that kept everything in front of it against an explosive Schurr offense that came in averaging a tad over 40 points a game.
Santa Maria is 8-4 and has won six straight. Schurr finished 10-2.
Down 21-14, with 38.5 seconds left in the third quarter, the Saints scored 14 points in a span of 13 seconds.
Truhitte hit a wide open Jonathan Ramos for a 59-yard score to tie it. Ramos caused a fumble with a big hit on a pooch kick on the ensuing kickoff, and Jason Sanchez recovered for the Saints at the Spartans' 34. Truhitte burst up the middle for the eventual winning score.
Truhitte broke free for a 38-yard touchdown run, Santa Maria kicker Diego Villagran recovered his own onside kick and Ramos scored from 21 yards out on the third ensuing play from the scrimmage as the Saints gapped the Spartans in the fourth quarter.
Villagran recovered his own onside kick for the second time in three weeks. He did it in the Northern League championship game at Nipomo, and that started Santa Maria on its way to a 41-25 comeback win.
"The coaches tell us it's just about minimizing your mistakes," said Villagran, who helped the Santa Maria soccer team make it to the Southern California Regional championship game last winter.
"We work on (the onside kick) in practice, and we've been able to make it work in games."
The momentum changed for the last time late in the third quarter.
The Spartans had gone ahead at 21-14 when Miguel Aguero connected with Francisco Remigio for a 49-yard score at the 6:55 mark of the third quarter. With Schurr facing fourth-and-one at the Saints' 12 and in shotgun formation, a bad snap sailed over Aguero's head.
Aguero had to fall on the ball at Santa Maria's 31 at the 2:24 mark of the third quarter. Truhitte hit Ramos for the tying score four plays later, and the Saints were on their way.
"These are 16, 17-year-old kids and momentum is such a big thing," said Santa Maria coach Dan Ellington, whose team won two nights before his birthday.
"We got behind, we just kept battling and then we could see the upset coming."
Three holding penalties wiped out big Schurr gains during the drive. A pass interference call against the Saints put the ball at the 12 and then came the bad snap.
The Saints contained a quarterback, Aguero, who had thrown for more than 3,300 yards going in, and his prolific receiver, Lance Babb. Babb had five catches for 48 yards and no touchdowns.
"We knew they liked to go to him, and we were determined to contain him even if it meant double teaming him," which the Saints often did, said Truhitte.
Gabriel Bravo made a big sack on Aguero in the second half, and he helped the Saints keep a decent Schurr rushing attack to 35 yards.
"We knew what they wanted to do when they ran the ball," said Bravo. "We were able to do in the game what we did in practice."
Santa Maria led 14-7 at halftime. Truhitte hit John Rojas for a 12-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter and scored from two yards out in the second. Keven Lopez turned a screen pass from Aguero into an 83-yard touchdown play for Schurr's first touchdown.
The Spartans tied it on Aguero's three-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Silva on the first possession of the second half.
Ramos had a total of 98 yards on his two receptions. Remigio, who made good on all three of his PAT kicks, was Schurr's leading receiver with a total of 80 yards on eight catches.