The Saddleback College football season ended Saturday night in a playoff game against the Mt. San Antonio College Mounties in a wet and muddy defensive contest at Hilmer Lodge Stadium in Walnut, Calif.
The Mounties played the role of undefeated defensive power house, against a resilient and tested Gauchos offense. The Mounties were playing at home and had obtained a perfect record, while Saddleback who had a rough start to their season, came into their own towards the end of the season. Saddleback won five straight which propelled them into the playoffs against the nationally ranked No. 2 Mounties team, the same team the Gauchos faced in the first week of the season as the No. 1 team. The Mounties won the first meeting by a field goal with only six seconds remaining.
This final game saw the Mounties defense stop Saddleback from getting any offense going.
Tim Belman, Anthony Cade, and Eric Lauderdale, the three key players who led the Gauchos in offense this season, were practically silent. Belman went 18-of-34 with one interception and no touchdowns. Cade, the Gauchos main rusher, was held to only 55 yards. Lauderdale, Belman’s favorite target, was also quiet most of the night receiving only 49 yards. The Gauchos struggles continued on conversions, securing only three out of 17 third down attempts. Third and fourth down conversions had haunted Saddleback since the start of the season, and while the Gauchos seemed to address this problem in previous weeks, it seemed as if it was left unfinished.
The Mounties defense was too much for the Gauchos, whose only score on a fumble recovery for a touchdown.
While the Gauchos were not effective on offense, the Mounties were almost equally ineffective. Mt. SAC scored only two touchdowns while missing one kick and having another blocked by Austin Baker, leaving the score at 12-7.
Rushing statistics were close at 76 yards for the Gauchos and 87 yards for the Mounties. The real offensive divide came in passing yards as Belman recorded 133 yards for the Gauchos while his Mountie counterpart Nick Montana recorded 257 yards.
While the season has concluded for Saddleback, it should be acknowledged that this team not only won its own division championship, but also set an example of brotherhood and teamwork at it’s finest. A team who pulled itself out of a slump, addressed its issues, played with heart and determination and succeeded where others had failed.
The Gauchos final record stands at six wins and five losses, overall. Within their own division, the Gauchos topped their rivals with five wins and one loss en route to the division title.