Saddleback survives Halloween thriller

Freshman wide receiver Nathan Rodgers attempts to catch a pass on Saddleback's game-winning drive Saturday. Rodgers did not come up the catch. (Ben Mullen/Contributer)

Freshman wide receiver Nathan Rodgers attempts to catch a pass on Saddleback’s game-winning drive Saturday. Rodgers did not come up the catch. (Ben Mullen/Contributer)

he Saddleback Gauchos increased their win streak to seven as they edged past the Fullerton College Hornets, 39-36 Saturday afternoon. Despite trailing in the first half the Gauchos sealed a victory.

Saddleback started the game down 14-0 as the Hornet’s offense scored a passing touchdown on the first series and returned a fumble off of the Gaucho’s botched kickoff return. Saddleback’s first offensive series resulted in a field gold which the Hornets responded to with a 22-yard rushing touchdown. Sophomore quarterback Johnny Stanton then answered with a one-yard run to cut the leadto 21-10.

“We started off a little rough but we buckled down,” sophomore defensive back Zachary Wide said. “We pride ourselves on a bend, but don’t break defense.”

The defense held the Hornets long enough for running back Myron Buchanan to score on a two-yard run, where quarterback Josh Gibson then executed a trick field goal for a two-point conversion. The ensuing defensive series forced a Hornet fumble, which was recovered and Stanton later found sophomore wide receiver Dominic Collins in the end zone giving Saddleback the lead.

“We started slow and we can’t play like that,” Collins said. “But, we picked it up in the second half and when the game was on the line we came through.”

The Hornets and Gauchos battled through the second half as the game remained 25-24. Finally, Wade went airborne on a Fullerton pass and came through with an interception. The next drive resulted in Stanton finding Collins for a 21-yard touchdown.

Saddleback commanded the lead in the fourth quarter 32-24, yet the Hornets scored a 29-yard pass and a five-yard run to take back the lead. With a minute and 40 seconds left Stanton and the offense marched down the field. Then, on fourth and one with 23 seconds to go, Buchanan punched through the end zone.

“I didn’t even know I was getting the ball, coach just had faith in me and I did what I had to do,” Buchanan said.

Although Saddleback only had three yards rushing, Stanton commanded the offense and finished the day with 31 completions out of 48 attempts for 342 yards. Collins had 175 yards and two touchdowns, while sophomore wide receiver Zach Davis hauled in 127 yards. Saddleback’s defense gave up 322 passing yards and 131 rushing yards, yet had two interceptions and a fumble recovery.

“It was a very tough way to start the game off,” Saddleback head coach Mark McElroy said. “But, I’ll tell you one thing, our kids are resilient.”

The Gauchos, who started the season winless, improve to 7-2 and will have a bye week before playing Golden West for the conference championship.

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