In football, good defense helps win championships.
Apparently, it sparks wins in home openers as well.
The nation’s 10th-ranked team, Saddleback College, took an early lead last Saturday thanks to a defense that did just about everything right until the offense could get going in a 33-23 win over Golden West College.
This Saturday, the Gauchos (1-0) play at 1 p.m. at Mt. San Jacinto (0-1), which lost to Chaffey, 17-12. Saddleback is 5-0 all-time against the Eagles and won last year, 41-15.
In the opener, after allowing a field-goal on Golden West’s opening drive, the Gaucho defense stood tall. Saddleback pressured Rustler quarterback Michael VanDeripe into throwing four interceptions and taking three sacks in the first half alone.
“We won this game basically because of our defense,” Saddleback wide receiver T.J. Knowles said, “they came out and made big plays for us tonight.”
With 9:27 left in the first half, a punt snap hit off Rustler punter Steven Santana and the Gaucho defense swarmed. The punt was blocked and Gaucho linebacker Andrew Douglass returned the ball 20 yards for the touchdown and the 7-3 lead
Even with the defense’s prowess, the Gaucho offense was unable to put anything together. Botched snaps, a missed field goal, a fumble, and one interception plagued the Saddleback offense.
“Offensively made a lot of mistakes which often early in the year happens,” Saddleback coach Mark McElroy said.
Coming off of another interception, the offense finally got together. Following a 39-yard pass from David Ingram, Jai Morris ran to the far pylon for the 14-3 halftime lead.
Where the defense ruled the first half, offense dominated the second half.
Early in the 3rd quarter, the Rustlers and Gauchos traded three consecutive touchdowns. Bryce Blake caught two touchdowns of 23 and 26 yards for Golden West around a three-yard touchdown run by Kevin Gogerty for the Gauchos.
Golden West had extra point problems on the two touchdowns. Kicker Eric Torres missed the first extra point. On the second, Richard Crawford returned a bobbled snap 87-yards for a safety and a 23-15 lead.
After a badly thrown interception in the third quarter, Brad Curtis was brought in to replace Ingram. Saddleback continued with a 34-yard field goal by Michael Frisina and a ten-yard touchdown reception by Dre Laney to give the Gauchos their biggest lead at 33-15.
“I think I have three very good quarterbacks that I have confidence in,” McElroy said, “(Ingram) was struggling a little bit, so I put in (Curtis) to see how he’d do. That’s all”
Golden West added a touchdown and a two-point conversion for the final of 33-23.
Gogerty led the Gauchos in rushing with 53 yards on eight rushes. Last year’s leading rusher, Morris, was taken to the hospital for a possible rib injury and did not play in the second half.
Ingram completed 10 of 23 passes for 145 yards for and Curtis went 6 of 11 passes for 71 yards and a touchdown.
Knowles led the Gauchos in receptions with four for 64 yards.
Blake torched Saddleback for 202 yards on 15 receptions for Golden West.
Kory Johnson led the Gauchos with ten tackles and had an interception and a sack.