Santa Maria’s drive toward a first-ever divisional football championship came up short Saturday night.
Daniel Jett bolted for touchdown runs of 45 and 35 yards in the second half, the Big Bear defense made enough stops and the Bears beat the Saints 37-23 for the CIF Southern Section Division 12 championship in front of an overflow crowd at Santa Maria’s Ralph Baldiviez Stadium.
“I think we just got a preview of our quarterback for next year,” said Big Bear coach Dave Griffiths.
“Because we had Chad (Dowty, quarterback) and Jesus (Castro), Daniel just didn’t get as big of a chance as he might have otherwise. He’s a special player.”
Castro and Dowty had both rushed for more than 1,200 yards going in, but it was Jett, who had 600-plus yards going in, who carried the night at crucial times for the Bears.
Third seed Big Bear finished 13-1. The Cross Valley League champions didn’t lose again after dropping their season opener.
Eighth seed Santa Maria finished 9-5. The Saints won seven straight before falling Friday night. They won the Northern League title.
“It didn’t end like we wanted to, but we had a good run,” said Santa Maria and quarterback Blake Truhitte. “Big Bear made enough plays to win.”
Truhitte has another big game, throwing for 210 yards and running for 155.
He scored two second half touchdowns but it wasn’t quite enough.
The Bears stacked up Robert Ruiz at the Big Bear 5 in the second half and recovered Ruiz’s fumble at the 1.
Zachary Bernard bolted 99-yards up the middle for a score on the next play.
Troy Dobis ended Santa Maria’s last hope when he intercepted Truhitte with about two minutes left.
Johnathan Ramos had seven catches for a total of 95 yards before he injured his shoulder. He could not return, and that hampered the Saints.
Still, “We didn’t do enough defensively to win. That’s the bottom line,” said Santa Maria coach Dan Ellington.
“We have a lot to be proud of though. We accomplished a lot.”
After going three plays and out its first two series, the high-powered Santa Maria offense drove 80 yards for the tying score after the Saints fell behind 7-0.
Truhitte finished the drive, which ate up 5:46, with an eight-yard scoring run at the 11:42 mark of the second quarter.
Big Bear’s Daniel Jett set up the first score when he scampered 45 yards around left end.
Castro went in from the 4 on the next play.
Before the Truhitte score, Castro’s 52-yard field goal try had the distance but the kick went wide left.
Santa Maria’s defense won some battles against the Big Bear triple option, but the Bears had some success attacking the opposite side from where standout Santa Maria defensive end Gerardo Zul was playing.
Dowty broke free from Santa Maria’s containment and ran 50 yards to make it 14-7.
A Santa Maria drive stalled at the Big Bear 21 and Diego Villagran kicked a 38-yard field goal.
Big Bear had passed just 44 times going in, and the Bears threw once in the first half.
A pass interference call against the Saints that put the ball on the Santa Maria 18 was the result. Castro kicked a 21-yard field goal for the final points of the half shortly thereafter.