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2019 High School Football Preview: Santa Maria planning to get back to the playoffs

From the Collection: 2019 High School Football - See all of our season previews, power rankings and player profiles right here! series
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2019 High School Football Preview: Santa Maria planning to get back to the playoffs

New year, another new league.

After having two leagues in the 2018 season, the CIF Central Section split its coastal schools into three four-team leagues this year.

With Mission Prep committing to a full 11-man season, 12 teams are playing at that level, so the Santa Maria Saints now join Templeton, Morro Bay and Mission Prep as members of the re-vamped Ocean League.

“You know with small, private schools like Mission Prep, some years they just don’t have enough kids to play 11-man but they’re planning on that this season,” said Santa Maria High’s fifth-year head coach Dan Ellington. “Mission Prep is pretty talented. They don’t have a lot of kids but the ones they do have tend to be pretty special.”

But Ellington’s Saints won’t be awed by the Royals, who won a Central Section 8-man championship last year.

“We stack up well against any of them,” said Ellington. “Templeton has a lot of good players coming back and Morro Bay has a new coach so they’ll be eager to play.”

Ellington also has some talented returning players.

“We’re young but we’re not inexperienced,” said Ellington. “We’ll have to see how the young guys progress but we have a lot of high-character players. They work hard and love football.”

Senior quarterback Dominick Martinez is coming back to direct the offense.

“After (2018 graduate) Sebastian Saiz was injured, Dominick started the last five games last year,” said Ellington.

Sammy Herrera is another returning starter who will be counted on to carry the bulk of the team’s running game.

“Sammy is a very good athlete. He’s one of the fastest kids in the area – one of our top runners on the track team,” said Ellington.

The offensive line will also feature a number of returning players.

“Many of them were sophomores last year,” said Ellington. “They’re still young but they’re not inexperienced.”

Defensive lineman Brayan Soriano and middle linebacker Fabian Montano will be the cornerstones of the Saints’ defense.

“Brayan is our number one guy on defense,” said Ellington. “We’re expecting big things from both of those guys.”

Although the team just returned to practice at the beginning of August, they’ve already spent a lot of time on the practice field.

“We had our regular summer practice schedule through the end of June into early July. We had our mandatory three week dark period at the end of July and now we’re back at it,” said Ellington. We’ve spent a lot of time with the kids since Christmas. There really is no long period of time without the kids.”

The team spent the summer working to identify the team’s strengths, finding the right fit for the players.

One of the team’s annual traditions is a summer camping trip.

“It’s something we do every year. This year we went camping at Lake Cachuma,” said Ellington. “The kids and coaches all get to know each other better. It’s good for team bonding. It’s one of the reasons I keep coaching. I like the camping trips and building better relationships with all the kids.”

The Saints went 3-8 overall and 1-4 in the old Ocean League last season.

They made it to the Central Section playoffs, falling to Visalia Mt. Whitney in the opening round.

This year, with a four-team league, the Saints three league games all come at the end of the season.

“We’ll open with Righetti and end the year with (a non-league game) against Pioneer Valley,” said Ellington. “I grew up here (Ellington is a Righetti graduate) and not playing them every year just isn’t right. I think we should always play the teams in our own school district even if they’re not league games.

“We can’t build a soft schedule. I’ve never been one to shy away from challenges and both Pioneer Valley and Righetti will be big challenges. Righetti (which made a run to the CIF-CS Division 2 finals last year) is probably the best team we’ll see all year. After that, if we come out healthy, we’ll be alright.”

Ellington feels his Saints will play exciting football.

“I’m proud of these kids. I want to make the school and community proud of them, too,” said Ellington. “I would love it of people would come out to see them play – fill the stadium and see this great group of humble, hard working kids.”

081019 Santa Maria football.jpg

Santa Maria High School's Mikey Velasquez, Abel Santana, Brayan Soriano, Jason Sanchez, Fabian Montano, Martin Diaz, Sammy Herrera, Adrian Arredondo and Dominick Martinez are the horses Santa Maria coach Dan Ellington are counting on to improve their 3-8 record from a year ago. The Saints start the season with a tough opponent, Friday against Righetti. 

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