The football team comes into the season ranked No. 16 in the nation.
Gauchos practicing in preparation for Saturdays big game. (Ally Beckwitt/Lariat)
The Saddleback College Gauchos celebrate 50 years of football by kicking off the season at College of the Desert on Sept. 2. Head coach Mark McElroy also celebrates his 19th year as coach for Saddleback. The team starts the season ranked No. 16 in the nation, according to JCGridiron.com, and McElroy believes the team is ready for the competition.
“After all summer long of the team scrimmaging themselves, they are excited to play someone else,” McElroy said.
This is McElroy’s 19th year as Saddleback football’s head coach. After years of high school and college football as a wide receiver at San Clemente High School, Kansas State University, Saddleback and California State University of Chico, McElroy decided it was time to hang up his cleats and begin his coaching career. In both 2004 and 2006 he received the Region IV coach-of-the-year award and the American Community College Football Coaches Association named him National coach-of-the-year in 2015.
As good of a record Coach McElroy holds, his offensive decisions seem a little rustier than usual this year.
McElroy has yet to decide on a starting quarterback for Saturday’s game but stated he will be choosing by this Friday’s practice. Saddleback plays three teams ranked top 10 in state this year including Long Beach, Ventura and No. 1 Fullerton.
“We’ve still got another week to compete in preparation for that game,” McElroy said. “We are ready for the competition.”
Defensively, the team has a strong lineup of veteran starters that will be vital for the first few games to help the rookies get their bearings. Sophomore defensive back Kyle Corder is confident in the season ahead due to improved teamwork.
“I feel like as a whole team were all one unit,” Corder said. “We’re all just one team as opposed to last year there were individuals on the team until game four.”
Corder believes that playing as a team rather than as individuals will play a major role in the outcome of this season especially after losing so many of last years teammates to university-level programs. This will be his fourth season playing as a corner and taking on the role as the defensive back leader.
“We have some shoes to fill” declared Corder when asked about the previous team. “But it’s just all practice. Every single player can get there.”
Corder displayed a great level of confidence going into this years season and is excited to get the season started at this Saturday’s game.