Going into the 29th consecutive meeting against Santa Ana, in which the Saddleback College football team has gone 23-5 in those meetings and won 10 straight, the Gauchos looked to have an easy day. However, the Dons came to play in the Southern Conference opener on Saturday.
After Santa Ana scored 31 unanswered points, including 21 points in the third quarter, the then No.6 Saddleback scored 21 points in the final seven minutes for the 42-38 comeback victory.
Even with the stunning comeback, the Gauchos dropped one spot in the JCGridiron.com “Dirty 30” national rankings to No. 7.
After Santa Ana scored on their opening drive capped by a 39-yard touchdown run by Jaron Hytche, Dominique Vinson gave the Gauchos a quick response with a 90-yard touchdown return on the ensuing kickoff to tie the score at 7-7.
Saddleback would take the 21-7 lead in the second quarter with a 22-yard touchdown pass from David Ingram to Vinson 25 seconds into the second quarter and a 13-yard touchdown run by Jai Morris four minutes into the quarter.
The train would stall there for the Gauchos.
Santa Ana scored four passing touchdowns on the arm of Thomas Jordan, including a 43-yard score to Julius Macharia in the first minute of the third quarter, and a field goal over the last half of the second quarter and through the third quarter for the 38-21 lead.
Both teams’ offenses were met with frustration through the first part of the fourth quarter.
With just over seven minutes left in the game, Saddleback coach Mark McElroy gathered the team together to try to spark a comeback. McElroy told his team of Brigham Young University’s 21-point comeback against Southern Methodist University in the final four minutes of the 1980 Holiday Bowl. McElroy believed if that comeback could happen, his team could do the same.
McElroy’s efforts immediately produced with Morris taking in a five-yard touchdown pass from Ingram with 7:04 remaining.
After the Gaucho defense forced the Dons into a three-and-out and a punt, the Gauchos took the ball at the 30-yard line.
On Saddleback’s first play, Ingram dropped back to pass and could not find an open receiver. Ingram took off down field and tiptoed down the sideline for a 70-yard touchdown run to bring the Gauchos within three points at 38-35.
The Saddleback defense came through one more time with an interception by Temeni Brewster at the Gauchos’ 15-yard line and gave the offense an opportunity for the lead. The Gauchos busted out the big guns with a 70-yard hook-and-ladder play by Aziz Spellman-Smith to the Santa Ana 11-yard line. Ingram completed the drive with a 12-yard pass to T.J. Knowles for the 42-38 lead with 2:03 left in the game to complete the comeback.This score held as the final.
Saddleback held the lead over Santa Ana in time of possession, 31:26 to 28:34; rushing yards, 116-109; and first downs, 19-16. Santa Ana led 278-222 in passing yards and 387-338 in total offense.
Ingram finished 20-for-39 for 222 passing yards with three touchdowns. Thomas finished 18-for-34 for 278 passing yards with four touchdowns for Santa Ana.
Keegan Gogerty led Saddleback on the ground with 54 rushing yards on 11 attempts. Hytche of Santa Ana led all rushers with 74 yards on 11 attempts.
Spellman-Smith led the Gaucho receiving corps for the second week in a row with 98 yards on three receptions. John Privitelli led the Dons with 94 yards on four receptions.
Saddleback punter Morris Kesselof equaled a school record in the game with a 69-yard punt.
Saddleback hopes to use this win a springboard into this week’s Homecoming game against the Palomar College Comets. The game is Saturday (Oct. 10) at 6 p.m. at Saddleback Stadium. Pre-game activities begin at 4:30 p.m.
No. 21 Palomar is 4-1 overall and 0-1 in Southern Conference play, losing to No. 14 Grossmont 29-26. The Comets are No. 3 in Southern California, and Saddleback is No. 2.
Palomar is averaging 29.8 points per game, 209.6 rushing yards per game, 216.2 passing yards per game, 425.8 total offensive yards per game, and holding opponents to 12 points per game.
Davis Orenzo is leading the Comets on the ground averaging 81 yards per game and 7.5 yards per carry. Orenzo has four touchdowns on the season.
Nate Ong is the signal-caller for Palomar and is averaging 154.4 passing yards per game. Ong has five touchdowns and four interceptions this season.
Martavious Lee leads the receivers with 61.6 yards per game and three touchdowns. Paul Moore is second on the team averaging 47 yards per game.
The Palomar defense as a whole only has four interceptions and four forced fumbles on the season.