The situation has become a bit convoluted for the Santa Ynez High varsity football team.

Heading into last week’s game at Nipomo, the postseason outlook was promising: A win and the Pirates would all but assure themselves a playoff berth.

Instead, Santa Ynez fell 36-8 to the Titans and sustained key injuries in the process. Scott Arellano (calf), who a week earlier accounted for all of Santa Ynez’s 21 points against Templeton, and Travis Porter (knee) are among those who didn’t finish the Nipomo game.

In any case, the Pirates must now regroup quickly with undefeated St. Joseph coming to town Friday for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.

While Santa Ynez sports a 5-3 overall mark (3-2 in Los Padres League play), the visiting Knights are 8-0 following a 34-14 win over Morro Bay.

And don’t expect St. Joseph, which has no key injuries, to somehow overlook its opponent.

“We really are subscribing to the cliché, one game at a time,” said St. Joseph’s head coach, Mike Hartman, in his fifth year at the helm. “This is our last league game of the season, our league finale. One of our team’s main goals is to defend our championship.”

 

Leading the way is starting quarterback Jacob Cano, whose importance to the Knights can’t be overstated.

“He’s the leader of our offense. Jacob is very poised and has been in a lot of big games,” Hartman said, adding that Cano also plays varsity basketball and baseball. “He doesn’t get rattled.”

That’s imperative when facing the Pirates’ pro-active and destructive defense.

Said Hartman: “They have an aggressive, attacking style and like to blitz. They’re tight on the line of scrimmage.”

The coach said his Knights must be prepared for Santa Ynez’s balance on offense. He credited Santa Ynez coach Ken Gruendyke for doing an “excellent” job, considering where the Pirates were a year ago.

“And there’s always been a great history between these teams, especially at Santa Ynez, where some strange things have happened (in past games),” Hartman said.

Gruendyke, for his part, isn’t depending on unusual occurrences. He’s hopeful St. Joseph might be overconfident in light of Santa Ynez’s misfortune at Nipomo but also knows the going will be rough.

“The Knights are big, tough, strong and fast,” he said.

 

The Pirates, added Gruendyke, must prevent St. Joseph’s dangerous tailback K.J. Cusack and versatile signal-caller Cano from busting loose.

“They have a nice one-two punch, and a dominating line that is the key to their foundation and success,” the coach said. “We have to have schemes for them.” Even so, he pointed out, the Pirates must look in the mirror first and foremost.

“We can’t only concern ourselves with them; we have to play a better game ourselves,” Gruendyke said. “We have to get some confidence back. We just have to convince the kids to play our best game and see what happens.”

What transpired a week ago had to be frustrating for Santa Ynez players and coaches alike. The Pirates invaded Nipomo riding a three-game winning wave, only to find themselves shipwrecked.

Senior quarterback Tyler Shean managed 171 yards on 12 completions, despite getting sacked eight times. For Nipomo, QB Josh Correia returned after a two-week hiatus to amass 303 yards and three TD passes against Santa Ynez’s previously immovable defense.

Gruendyke thought his team was sufficiently focused before the game.

 

“But we found out Nipomo was well-prepared and ready to get after us,” he said, noting the Titans’ pair of successful drives out of the gate. “It would’ve been nice to slow them down early because in the second quarter, we got our offense rolling and might’ve gone into halftime tied. In the third, we had another big drive but weren’t able to capitalize.”

As for Santa Ynez’s lingering injuries, Gruendyke saw promising signs: Will Lopez (concussion) and Skyler Barrick were probable for the St. Joseph game, while Arellano’s status was undisclosed as of Tuesday. Porter underwent an MRI exam; he is out for the season.

Extra point: Prior to Friday’s kickoff, the Pirates’ senior players, cheerleaders, band members and their parents will be introduced as part of Senior Night.

 

jluksic@syvjournal.com