East County Sports

Sultans stage comeback, make last stand

Santana quarterback Nathan Temple throws on Friday night. / photo by Melissa Honick

Santana carries against Serra on Friday night. / photo by Melissa Honick




By Jim Lindgren

Special to EastCountySports.com


SANTEE – After a blowout victory last week against an inferior squad, Santana showed some mettle Friday night in downing a Serra team picked by many to win its league this year.

First, the Sultans’ offense rallied back from a 16-point deficit. Then, the defense staged a late goal-line stand and ultimately thwarted a potential game-winning field-goal attempt as time expired to hold on for a 24-22 win at Santana.

“It was a good, fun game for the fans,” Santana coach Tim Estes said. “I grew some new gray hairs, but I’ll take it.”

Santana’s CHAZ BAKER scores a touchdown on Friday night. / photo by Melissa Honick

Serra (0-2) charged out of the blocks to take a 16-0 lead.

The Conquistadors needed only six plays to score on their opening possession. Quarterback Timmy Zebroski was 3-for-3 passing on the drive for 77 yards, and Dustin Ellison scored on a 2-yard run. Zebroski then hit Mark Genovich on a 2-point conversion pass for an 8-0 lead.

Minutes later, Serra’s 270-pound punter Thaddeus Tanner connected with Ellison on a fake punt pass play that covered 54 yards, and another 2-point conversion made it 16-0.

“They came out ready to play, and we did not,” Estes said. “But the kids responded really well after that.”

Nathan Temple and Chaz Baker got things rolling for the Sultans in the second quarter. From the 34-yard line, Temple lofted a sweet pass over the top that Baker hauled in while sliding in the end zone with a defender draped on him to make it 16-7.

“That’s how you draw it up,” Estes said. “Good protection. Nice throw. Nice catch in the end zone.”

In the third quarter, Temple hit Jared Forster for an apparent touchdown, but the play was called back on a penalty. Colton Snipes then nailed a 26-yard field goal to make it 16-10.

Santana’s Nathan Temple passes on Friday night. / photo by Melissa Honick

Early in the fourth quarter, Ian Litten stepped in front of a Zebroski pass and returned the interception 54 yards for a touchdown to give Santana its first lead at 17-16.

After the Sultans’ defense held again early in the fourth quarter, Temple connected with Randy Smith on a 72-yard scoring pass to give Santana a 24-16 cushion.

Late in the fourth, Serra scored on a 56-yard run to make it 24-22, but Santana stopped a 2-point conversion run that would have tied the score.

Santana expected an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff, but the Q’s kicked it deep. As the ball appeared to be rolling into the end zone for a touchback, however, a Santana played downed the ball at the 1-yard line.

Three plays later, Santana was forced to punt, and Serra took over around the 40-yard line with about 2 minutes to play. After a long run, the Q’s had a first-and-goal at the 7-yard line and despite a sack and a penalty, eventually got the ball to the 1-yard line.

Santana held on the next play, and Serra elected to try a 19-yard field-goal attempt for the win.

After a bobbled snap, the Serra holder attempted to run the ball right but he was met hard and taken down by Luke Simanek as time expired.

“It all came down to that final play,” Estes said. “It was a nail-biter right down to the end.

Colton Snipes makes a place-kick on Friday night. / photo by Melissa Honick

“We didn’t start the game very well, but the guys battled back and did a great job. We battled back from some adversity. That was good.”

Temple completed 16 of 26 passes for 224 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Smith caught seven passes for 150 yards, including his long TD grab. Forster grabbed four balls for 24 yards. Baker added three catches for 45 yards and his touchdown.

In addition to his field goal, Snipes was 3-for-3 on PAT kicks. He also blocked a punt and made 14 tackles. Cameron Wilson had 11 tackles and two sacks. Litten posted 10 tackles and his Pick Six.

“We had some pretty good plays from a lot of kids,” Estes said.

Santana and Serra are both in Division IV, and Estes said a playoff rematch is very much a possibility.

These schools had played only one other time, Serra taking a 24-0 decision in 1997 when Jerry Ralph coached the Sultans.

“Honestly, it was one heck of a game,” Temple said. “From the start to the end, our team never gave up. Our offensive line is everything, the core of our team that keeps us going. We couldn’t do anything without them tonight. And our defense, wow, they played with everything they got. We never lost faith in them throughout the entire game.”

Said Snipes, “Everyone working together is what’s really got us wins in the last two weeks.”

Santana defeated Mountain Empire last week 42-7. The Sultans play Christian next Friday night at Granite Hills.

Santana converges on a Serra runner Friday night. / photo by Melissa Honick

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