Freshman running back Connor McBride ran the ball in for an 11 yard touchdown with only 1:29 left on the clock to give Saddleback a dramatic fourth quarter lead over El Camino in front of a packed house at Saddleback Stadium on Friday night in a game that featured over 1,000 yards of total offense as the Gauchos defeated the Warriors 48-45 .
Wide receiver Clinton Allen had a big day on offense for the Gauchos with 12 receptions for 178 yards and 3 touchdowns.
“It was pretty close. We just stuck together, battled through adversity and pulled out a W,” Allen said. “They were the fastest team we’ve played so far. They had a lot of dudes who flew to the ball”
The Warriors, who were ranked #17 in the nation by JCGridiron going into the game, came to Mission Viejo with their big time passing offense, which averaged 63 points per game and 344 yards through the air to start the season.
“We’ve emphasized all week that they want to throw the ball and that they’re a big play offense,” said Gauchos defensive coordinator Steve Crapo.
The first half of the game was a back and forth shootout as the Warriors and their high powered aerial attack answered each Gauchos score with a touchdown of their own.
“We had one total breakdown on the third touchdown they got in the first half. That’s just because we weren’t communicating,” Crapo said.
Quarterback Cam Humphrey showed that Saddleback can go to the air with the best of them, throwing for 430 yards and 5 touchdowns in the game. Humphrey connected with wide receiver Lorenzo Thompson with 38 seconds left in the half to get the Gauchos back to back touchdowns and a 41-35 lead going into halftime.
The Warriors came out of the half firing right back, as their quarterback, Cole Klayman, who finished with 360 passing yards and 4 touchdowns, hit wide receiver Trevon Clark for a 36 yard touchdown reception. That would be the last touchdown the Gauchos would give up on the night though, as coach Crapo’s defense shut down El Camino in the second half, including clutch interceptions by defensive backs Christian Rabay and Jaden Price.
“They just started talking,” Crapo said. “You know, It’s stuff we emphasize. Keep everything in front keep your eyes out of the backfield and cover. I mean, we work on it everyday”
The Warriors defense was also able to contain the Gauchos offense in the second half, holding Saddleback to only one field goal.
“They changed things up a little bit,” said wide receiver Chris Spiering. “They went the first half with a cover four most of the time, so we took what was given to us but, second half, they made some adjustments and started playing a little man which caught us off guard a little bit.”
Spiering, who caught 2 passes for 38 yards on the night, had high praise for the entire receiving squad at Saddleback, which has had some injuries to deal with early in the season.
“We have the best receiving corp in southern California and we have guys lined up, ready to go, right when someone gets hurt. Next man up, as they say,” Spiering said. “Ty Freeman was the next man up. He had a couple of catches for a first down that kept us in the game.”
Sophomore wide receiver Tylon Freeman came up big for the Gauchos as the clock ran down in the fourth quarter. He finished the game with 4 receptions for 61 yards.
“We just came together and we got the job done at the end of the game and I’m blessed that my number was called to be able to make a play to help win,” Freeman said.
The Warriors kicked a field goal with 9:52 left in the fourth quarter to take a 45-41 lead, setting the stage for a dramatic touchdown by the Gauchos to get the lead back, but leaving El Camino with a minute and a half on the clock to try and move the ball close enough for a game winning field goal.
Crapo emphasized that there was no sense of urgency for his defense during the game’s final minutes.
“We had our four best pass rushers in the game at the time,” Crapo said. “I knew our guys on the back side would just keep running around and keep everything in front and, you know, hopefully get the clock to run out before they could get down and get a field goal.”
The Gauchos knew that this game was going to be a tough battle heading into the match-up.
“If you talk to each Gaucho, they’ll tell you we came in with so much respect for El Camino,” said freshman defensive back Corey Sinceno. “We knew it was going to be a shootout.”
The Gauchos won’t have much time to celebrate before facing another tough opponent, as they go on the road next week to battle the nationally ranked Ventura Pirates.
“We’ve got the biggest three weeks of the season coming up, said Spiering. “Our receiving corp is gonna have to stay strong, stay healthy and do what we do best, which is catch footballs.”
Over the weekend, Ventura lost to high ranked Riverside City. That doesn’t mean that the Gauchos expect the upcoming match-up to be any easier for them.
“We can’t look past any opponent,” said freshman defensive back Corey Sinceno. “We have a bunch of dogs, savages, in this league who will punch us in the mouth if we take them lightly, and that goes for any team, from Fullerton, OCC, any team. If we sleep on them they will hit us in the mouth so we gotta be prepared for each team as if it’s a championship.”
After Ventura, the Gauchos will have a bye week before facing their toughest challenge of the season against the Fullerton Hornets, who are currently the #1 ranked JC team in the nation.
“You can’t help but be excited for that game, but at the end of the day we gotta take it one week at a time,” Freeman said. “I’m just gonna keep doing work and keep doing what we need to do to win ballgames.”
The 4-0 Gauchos are now #7 in the nation in the latest JCGridiron Dirty 30 Rankings. Fans that can’t make it to the games can always live stream Saddleback Gauchos Football on the Gaucho Sports Network.