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Righetti football team reflects on regional title victory while looking ahead to state championship game

Righetti football celebration
Righetti football player Hayden Baichtal celebrates after the Warriors regional bowl game victory on Dec. 4. (Dave Alley/KEYT)

ORCUTT, Calif. -- The Righetti High School football team is still basking in its state regional championship it earned this past Saturday night.

"It's surreal," said junior quarterback Abel McCormack. "I can't believe some of the things we've done, but we're a good team."

A thrilling 14-7 win over Northwood (Irvine) at Irvine High School gave the Warriors their second championship in as many weeks. One week earlier, Righetti captured the CIF-Central Section Division 6 championship with a victory over Liberty (Madera).

The win over Northwood not only claimed the CIF South Division 5-AA Regional title, it also earned the Warriors a trip to the state championship game.

"We're really happy and really excited to go there and make a name for ourselves and make history," said senior Austin Rice.

The Warriors are the first 11-man team ever in the Santa Maria Valley to win a CIF football sectional title. Now, they're aiming to add to their legacy with the area's first state crown.

It's an impressive feat when you consider the team entered the CIF-Central Section postseason with one just regular season victory.

"We weren't thinking about going to the state championship a month ago," said Rice. "It is a big surprise honestly."

However, once the playoffs started, Righetti rose to the occasion and peaked when the season mattered the most.

Now, the Warriors are preparing for their final game of the season, a championship showdown versus Sacred Heart Prep of Atherton.

"We've had some time to celebrate and stuff, but just like I've been saying, we've been winning," said senior Elias Martinez, who scored a touchdown in Saturday's win over Northwood. "Now it's onto the next week now."

Much like Righetti, the Gators struggled during the regular season, losing seven of nine games at one stretch. During the playoffs, Sacred Heart Prep has turned into an offensive juggernaut, averaging about 39 points during its four-game postseason winning streak.

"We have a lot in common," said Righetti head coach Tony Payne. "They are a well-coached team. They keep things pretty simple on offense. They keep things pretty simple on defense."

The winner of the game will take home the CIF State championship for Division 5-AA.

"We're thinking about it," said Payne. "It was beyond our wildest dreams and now it's right in front of our face. We know there's a lot on the line."

Righetti's unexpected success is not only creating a buzz on campus, administration also believes it’s helping lift the entire student body that has been greatly impacted through the duration of the pandemic.

"This is a huge deal," said Righetti principal Ted Lyon. "What the kids had to endure throughout that time, not being able to participate last fall, to come back and now be playing for the state championship, I don't think it gets any better than that."

The only accomplishment better than making the championship game would be to win it.

"We've already made some history and this would just be the next step in that history, just see how far we can take it," said Payne.

Saturday's game will be held at Sacred Heart Prep in Atherton. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.

For more information, click on the CIF State website.

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Dave Alley

Dave Alley is a reporter and anchor at News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Dave, click here.

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