SANTA MARIA, Calif. - A season to the remember came to an end Saturday night in Santa Maria.
Playing before an estimated 5,000 fans inside Ralph Baldiviez Stadium, the Saints football team hosted a CIF championship game for the first time ever.
"It was a great, surreal feeling with all the fans that came out and the support," said senior guard/defensive end Gabriel Bravo "It was a really great atmosphere."
The game culminated an amazing playoff run for Santa Maria. Over the previous four games, the Saints earned the program's first league title in 29 years, first playoff appearance in 16 years and first playoff victory in 23 years. The championship game was the first for Santa Maria since 1988.
"Not a lot of people can say they played in a cif championship with 5,000 people watching, so that's one of the most memorable moments," said senior quarterback Blake Truhitte.
Led by Truhitte, the Saints created plenty of memories during the past season.
While the team came up short in the final game, players know what they accomplished this season will last forever.
"It's something that doesn't really happen here and to have everyone here and coming to a football game, it was amazing, a bunch of people here," said senior tight end/defensive end Gerardo Zul. "It felt good and it felt like we made Santa Maria proud. We fought hard and we gave it our all."
On Monday, less than 48 hours after the game ended, team members already understood their playoff run created not only school pride, but also inspiration for the city and surrounding area.
"To bring all the past alumni together the past couple of weeks for cif to come out of the dark and support us, it's been a really fun experience," said Bravo. "We're so grateful for providing this experience for the whole Santa Maria community."
Now with the season over, many of the players are all set to move on to other sports. As they do, they'll look to continue the unprecedented run of success enjoyed recently across the entire Saints athletic department.
"It feels you up with more hunger and you come in hungry for the next season and come ready to play, do whatever it takes to win, play to your full potential and play to all of your ability," Bravo said.
As football fades into history, this group now has many memories to cherish, from what has truly been a special season to remember.
"Just bonding with the teammates," said senior receiver Jonathan Ramos. "They're really great people and it was fun getting to know them. We were making history and that was the main thing I'm going to remember about this."
"The people, the teammates, the practices and all the fun times that we had here that people don't get to see and all the friendships that we made," Zul said.
The Saints finished the season with a record of 9-5.