Karson Block intercepts a pass from Riverside quarterback Kevin Olsen in the third quarter of the Gauchos victory in the first round of the playoffs. (Nick Nenad/ Lariat)
Saddleback College’s football team dominated Riverside City College in the regional semifinals on Saturday, 37-20. Beating the Tigers for the first time since 2007, the Gauchos kept a large lead from start to finish and advanced to the regional finals.
“The team played great, I was very impressed,” Saddleback head coach Mark McElroy said. “I think the difference was the eight weeks we’ve had to mature and bond.”
The Gauchos initially started with a missed field goal, but got one on their next possesion, got an interception and got another field goal leaving them leading 6-0.
After two more Tigers plays, the Gauchos intercepted a Riverside pass and made a touchdown pass on their next drive from sophomore quarterback Johnny Stanton to sophomore wide receiver Dominik Collins making it 13-0.
“I have to give all the credit to my teammates,” Collins said. “The quarterback throwing the ball right on the money and we executed, executed perfectly. It’s nice to finally call yourself champions.”
On the next Riverside possession, the Tigers threw another interception that was returned for a touchdown by sophomore linebacker Blake Whitlock. By the time halftime was upon the game, the score was 27-0.
At the start of the second half a long kickoff return by freshman running back Marvin Marshall brought the Gauchos to the middle of the field. Saddleback got a screen pass, putting them into a position to score.
Even though they got close, the Gauchos could only manage a field goal. An interception by sophomore safety Kai Ross, on the ensuing Riverside drive, would lead to a touchdown by sophomore linebacker Anthony Hickey, making it 30-7.
The Gauchos never looked back and the final score was 37-20. This is the Gauchos ninth straight win (9-2), which is the most consecutive wins in a season since 2006.
“We’re a whole different team now,” Whitlock said. “What they did to us in the beginning of the season, that loss they gave us, it really changed us as a team and made us a lot better.”
A few awards were also given out at the end of the game. Defensive player of the game was given Whitlock, offensive player of the game was awarded to Collins and the most valuable player was Stanton.
“It was a team victory and my goodness that defense,” Stanton said. “It was six turnovers and this week we were looking forward to beating them and we were lucky to put together the game we did.”
The Gauchos next game will be at home on the Nov. 28 against Long Beach City College. LBCC is currently 10-1 and on a 3-game winning streak.