On a cool night at Lebard Stadium in Costa Mesa, the Gauchos were set to open their season on the road against the Golden West Rustlers.
A crowd of 1,300 was in attendance for a game in which history has shown the Gauchos were expected to handle Golden West. Saddleback last lost to the Rustlers in 1989. Until Friday night.
Golden West won, 16-11
Both defenses were strong in the first quarter as both offenses struggled for no points. In the second quarter, though, Golden West seemed to find a groove. The Rustlers scored a touchdown by quarterback Micah Vanderpipe, which capped a 79-yard drive. Ironically enough, the touchdown was a one-yard rushing touchdown on a night when the Saddleback defense held the Rustlers to a total of 21 rushing yards.
In the first half the Gauchos looked out of tune offensively, which showed on the scoreboard at halftime. They trailed by seven points.
As the second half got under way so did the Gauchos. The Gauchos marched down the field led by quarterback Brian Shrock. On a third and 11 Shrock threw a strike to Gauchos receiver Lamont Enyard near the end zone but Enyard couldn’t hold on to the ball as the Gauchos settled for a field goal by Christian Lepore to cut into the Rustlers lead, 7-3.
Shrock finished the game 16 for 35 with 194 passing yards with two interceptions. He was sacked five times. Shrock’s go to man in the receiving game was sophomore Jay Wisner from El Toro High School. He had 136 yards receiving on eight catches.
Later in the third quarter after a drive by Saddleback was halted by the Rustlers, Saddleback punter Vince McGlade kicked a beauty to the Rustler five-yard line. This would prove to be an important play as Saddleback freshmen defensive end Paul Gonzalez sacked Vanderpipe in the end zone for a safety which equals two points for the Gauchos as they now trailed 7-5. This ended the third quarter.
As the result of the safety the Gauchos got the ball back to start the fourth quarter. The team’s rushing was a big player on this drive led by freshmen running back Jai Morris and Shrock. The Gauchos finished the day with 195 total rushing yards, Morris had 91 of them. He finished the drive with a four-yard touchdown run which put the Gauchos in the lead, 11-7, despite the fact they had 20 penalties in the game.
On a drive late in the fourth quarter, Shrock went down with an apparent ankle injury as he was replaced by freshmen quarterback Joe Arreguin who had one pass attempt and failed to complete it.
After a Saddleback punt the Rustlers took over at the Saddleback 43 yard line. With 3:26 left Vanderpipe through a long pass down field to receiver Brandon Grissom who made a miraculous catch around a Gaucho defender for the touchdown to put the Rustlers on top 13-11.
The Rustlers failed to convert the extra point attempt.
Vanderpipe finished his day 14 for 25 with 212 passing yards and a touchdown.
There was still time for the Gauchos to work some magic and possibly comeback for the win as Shrock returned to the game. But their hopes fell short after two plays as Shrock through a costly interception to Rustler Jodare Lewis with two minutes left in the game.
With a minute left in the game the Gauchos got the ball back after a Rustler field goal pushing the lead to 16-11. There hopes fell short on the Gaucho bench as the final tick of the clock came on a fourth down incompletion by Shrock.
The Gaucho defense had a strong effort, limiting the Rustlers ground attack and getting points via a safety. The Gaucho offense came around but it was to little to late for them.
Shrock made a great effort after injuring his ankle and getting it taped to come back in the game and try to lead the boys to victory but some streaks are meant to be broken.
The Gauchos won 15 straight games versus the Rustlers. It just wasn’t theie night.
If numbers determine how the game ends the Gauchos led in nearly every statistical category – even the ones they wish they did not. They led in total yards 389 to 233. They had nine more first downs.
They dominated the running game and the passing game was about even.
Penalties and turnovers will lose a game, though. The Gauchos had two turnovers and 153 penalty yards.
Saddleback will host Mt. San Jacinto to kick off the home opener Saturday at 6 p.m.