Quarterback Jake Dashaw gets the throw off despite being pressured. (Adam Kolvites)
A late fourth-quarter field goal by College of the Canyons proved to be the deciding factor in Saddleback College’s home-opening 31-28 loss on Saturday.
In the first quarter, Gaucho offense scored two touchdowns by quarterbacks Matt Morin and Tim Belman. Morin ran the ball 3-yards for a touchdown followed by a 5-yard pass from Belman to wide receiver Dominick Ela for the score. Ela finished the night with 197 yards receiving, averaging a team-high 14.1 yards per reception.
The Gauchos saw their lead disappear in the second quarter, as the Cougars scored three consecutive touchdowns to take the lead, 21-14. The Cougars’ running back Louis Gipson threw his first touchdown of the season on a halfback option, connecting with wide receiver Travion Tucker for a 51-yard touchdown. Tucker led the Cougar receivers on the night with 172 yards and three touchdowns.
When asked about how this win will affect next game, Gipson said, “It’s going to give us the motivation to practice harder in practice and hopefully next week we will get the W.”
Saddleback’s Belman threw another 5-yard touchdown with under a minute left in the half to tie the score, 21-21, to running back Tyler Murphy.
At the beginning of third quarter, Saddleback regained the lead when defensive back Davonte Merriweather intercepted a pass from Jake Dashnaw and returned it 51-yards for the score, giving the Gauchos a 28-21 lead. Gaucho linebacker Duran Workman also forced a fumble on Cougar quarterback Tony Dawson, recovered by defensive back Laquan Middleton, in the first quarter.
Canyon running back Gabe Peralta answered back with a 3-yard rushing touchdown, to tie the score 28-28.
Both teams then went scoreless for over ten minutes until the fourth quarter when Canyon kicker Eric Kreitz, put a field goal attempt through the up rights for the lead, 31-28. Kreitz was also 3 for 3 on extra points.
During Saddleback’s final drive starting on the 38 yard line after receiving a punt return at their own 42 and personal foul against the Cougars, with only forty five seconds left in the game, Belman drove the ball 23 yards, and then Cougar defender received a pass interference call for 13 yards pushing the Gauchos to the 2 yard line with twelve seconds left. Belman’s final throw was complete to wide receiver Tyler Murphy for no gain falling short of the end zone.
After coming off of a loss last week, Cougars interim Head Coach Ted Iacenda knew this was going to be a big game against Saddleback, he said, “…any time you’re coming off a loss and you are facing a goliath, No. 4 team in the state, you got to tread very carefully to begin with, we got down 14 nothing and you know, it could be trouble for your team mentally, they could think here we go again so we had to fight that and we have great kids and we battled back, and we were able to get a quick score, and we started to get momentum.”
With the loss, the Gauchos fall to 1-1 on the year, while the Cougars picked up their first win.
“We didn’t play well enough to win,” Gauchos’ head coach Mark McElroy said after the game. “We just got to regroup after a tough loss like this.”
The Gauchos’ next game will be away at Riverside Community College, Sept. 21 at 6 p.m. The Cougars will be facing College of the Desert at home that weekend.
Couger Travion Tucker catches the football for a touchdown in the victory over the Gauchos. (Adam Kolvites)
Dominick Ela leaps and grabs the football for a touchdown. (Adam Kolvites)