Gauchos football can’t hold on against Fullerton College on Homecoming night

Wide receiver Eric Lauderdale hits the ground after making the catch in the first quarter of the Gauchos’ 48-44 loss. (Michael Grennell)

Michael Grennell

The Saddleback College Gauchos dropped their first game to Fullerton College in four years, as the undefeated Fullerton Hornets rallied to beat Saddleback, 48-44, on Homecoming night.

Going into Saturday’s game, the Gauchos had won their last three games against the Hornets, outscoring them 130-108. Last season, Saddleback picked up their second win of the year at Fullerton, 44-29, thanks to quarterback Tim Belman’s second game of 400 or more passing yards.

“It was a great football game,” Fullerton head coach Tim Byrnes said. “This year we were lucky to pull it out. [Saddleback has] won the last three games, so it’s about time.”

The Gauchos went into the fourth quarter leading the Hornets 37-20, and added to that lead when Belman connected with wide receiver Eric Lauderdale on a 29-yard touchdown pass. The Hornets responded by scoring 21 unanswered points to close out the game, including a game-winning 92-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jose Escobar to wide receiver Eli Pleasant with just under two minutes left in the game.

“I was confident, even though we started at the one-yard line,” Escobar said about his team’s game-winning drive. “Fourth and three, I like my chances with [Pleasant] on anybody in the country.”

Escobar said after the game that despite trailing late in the game, his team never quit.

“We’re gonna win together and we’re gonna lose together,” Escobar said. “And we don’t like losing, so we’ll fight to the end.”

Belman finished the game completing 38 of 59 passes, for 476 yards, four touchdowns, and an interception. On a 10-yard pass to running back Dominick Ela early in the first quarter, Belman broke the school record for most career passing yards. Belman also set the school record for most career passing touchdowns on Saturday, connecting with tight end Chris French for a 10-yard touchdown pass on the first drive of the second half.

“It’s an honor (setting the school records),” Belman said. “I would’ve liked to get the ‘W’ with the records though.”

Belman said that it was the little mistakes that hurt the Gauchos by stopping their drives.

“It’s a heartbreaker we had to lose it that way,” Belman said. “But we fought, and we fought till the end. That’s all I can say for the Gauchos.”

The loss dropped the Gauchos to 3-3 on the season (1-1 in conference), and they are now tied with Palomar College for fourth place in the standings. The Hornets improve to 6-0 (2-0 in conference), and they have now won 11 straight games dating back to last season. Saddleback will go on the road for their next game, as they take on the Orange Coast College Pirates. The Pirates are 2-5 this year (0-3 in conference), and are coming off a 38-16 loss at Santa Ana College. Belman is looking forward to the matchup, saying that he expects the team to rebound against the Pirates.

“I’m going to keep improving myself week by week and hopefully everything comes together in the end,” Belman said. “We’re gonna bring it every single day. We’re not ever gonna give up again. This is a loss we can rebound from.”

Kicker Matt Boermeester sends the opening kickoff flying down the field against the Fullerton College Hornets on Homecoming night. (Michael Grennell)

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