The dreary, rainy weather definitely did not match the Santa Maria boys soccer team's mood after this game was over Tuesday night.
Michael Llamas scored for the Saints in the 31st minute to break a scoreless tie and Santa Maria controlled things most of the way thereafter. The Saints clinched their third Los Padres League championship in the last four years by beating Santa Ynez 5-1 at Santa Maria's Ralph Baldiviez Stadium.
With one league game left, the Saints are 18-2-3, 12-1-0. Second-place Cabrillo went into Tuesday night's scheduled games 9-3-0 in league play.
"We clinched the championship at Cabrillo last year," Santa Maria junior Samuel Tena said after he scored the third Santa Maria goal Tuesday night.
"It was between us and them (for the league title in 2016). Every league championship is just as special as the last one. We won it at home this time."
Santa Ynez (8-7-3, 7-5-1) clinched a playoff spot with a 5-1 win over Orcutt Academy last Thursday night. The Pirates, who are sitting third, can do no worse than fourth place and the last automatic league playoff seed.
Santa Maria won 2-0 at Cabrillo last year to win the league championship in the teams' last game of the regular season. This time, the Saints won on their Senior Night.
"We started slowly," said Santa Maria coach Eduardo Cuna. "We didn't have enough time to warm up because of the Senior Night proceedings.
"We were desperate to get that first goal."
Once they did, "We started controlling the ball," said Tena.
Santa Ynez held its own with Santa Maria in terms of ball control most of the first half. Santa Maria spent a lot of time during the first 31 minutes futilely trying to get the ball over the top of the Santa Ynez defense.
Then the Saints started moving the ball on the ground and getting numbers on the Pirates in the Santa Ynez penalty box. Pirates goal keeper Misa Hernandez knocked away a shot in the 31st minute, but Llamas was there to tap in the rebound shot.
Less than a minute after Llamas scored, Jose Orozco, deep in the penalty box, knocked in a shot for the Saints. A few minutes later, Tena beat the Santa Ynez defense and scored from point blank range.
Chris Tellez gave the Pirates some momentum when he knocked in a goal from about 20 yards out in the last minute of the first half. However, the Pirates couldn't sustain much on the attack in the second.
They had two shots after halftime, and both went wide left.
Meanwhile, a recent addition from the Santa Maria junior varsity scored the last two goals of the game. Johnathan Santos scored on a pair of strikes from about 20 yards out, in the 22nd and 35th minutes of the second half.
"He's a sophomore who's been playing (on the varsity) for a couple of games now," said Cuna. "Little by little, he's been playing more."
The score would have been more lopsided had Hernandez not made three sliding kick saves on Santa Maria shots in the penalty box.
Santa Maria is scheduled to close out its regular season with a 5:30 p.m. home game against Nipomo Thursday night. The fifth-place Titans (5-6-1) are in the running for an automatic playoff spot.
Nipomo's home Tuesday night game against Templeton was re-scheduled because rain made the Nipomo field unplayable. A make-up date had not been determined at press time.
Santa Ynez will finish its regular season with a 5:30 p.m. home game against fourth-place Lompoc (6-7-0 LPL) Thursday night.