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The Santa Ynez High varsity football team advanced to the first round of sectional playoffs and travels Friday to North High School in Torrance.

The Saxons won second place in the Pioneer League. Although the two teams have not faced a common opponent this year, they appear fairly evenly matched.

Coach Ken Gruendyke is excited about finishing our league season with 4 consecutive wins in a row.

“It enabled us to lock down a tie for second, and guarantee a CIF playoff spot,” the coach said.

As for the Pirates’ playoff foe, Gruendyke said, “The Saxons are big up front and tend to run the ball more than pass. They play a 4-4 defense, which we have gone against several times this year. If we can focus on being discipline by doing our jobs and force them to make mistakes, we can win the game Friday and go on to the second round.”

The Pirates had a few players sustain injuries in the St. Joseph loss. Travis Porter and Ramon Santos have slightly sprained knees, but should be ready, according to Gruendyke. Cole Hollingsworth has a sprained foot, but also should be healthy enough to go.

On Nov. 12, a withering passing attack from St. Joseph sank the Pirates at a non-league game in Santa Maria.

The Pirates entered that game, a 42-21 loss, having already secured at least a tie for second place in the Los Padres League. Santa Ynez’s offense was able to mount multiple scoring drives. Quarterback Ryan Welker had a solid game in both the passing and running departments, completing 13 of 21 passes for 150 yards and a touchdown, and running for 45 yards and another score. Zach Foss was the leading receiver for the Pirates, garnering 69 yards on four catches. Tight end Bobby Moir caught three passes, one for a touchdown. Others receiving passes were Wyatt Garley, Parker Johnson and Travis Porter.

Cole Hollingsworth was again the workhorse running back for the Pirates, carrying the ball 13 times for 32 yards. Other major rushers included Casey Ellis and Abe Santos.

The offensive line of the Pirates, led by center Daniel Fournier, had an exceptional evening, protecting the quarterback and opening holes for the rushers.

Santa Ynez coaches used the game to groom several players recently brought up to the varsity squad. Sophomore running back Alec Hanna had a stellar night, rushing 10 times for 41 yards; Hanna also handled some of the Pirate kick return duties and had several long runs. Other sophomores contributing to the game were Grey Hollingsworth and Dane Underwood.

The Pirate defense was stalwart against the potent St. Joseph rushing game. The Pirates gave up only 108 yards on the ground, nearly half of which came on a single break-away run. Key defenders were linebackers Alex Lorenz, Lee Jensen, and Javy Guzman. The defensive line, often unsung in a 3-5 defense, was also vital to limiting the Knights’ runners.

Foss had a strong game on both sides of the ball. On offense as a receiver, he collected 69 yards on four catches. On defense as a cornerback, he virtually shut down the Knights’ passing attack in his sector of the field, and intercepted a pass in the end zone to stop a Knight touchdown drive.

— Staff Report