Football ends season in blowout loss

Saddleback College's football team defensive back Langden Lapp (left) tackles Golden West College's wide receiver Nik Little in Saddleback's 30-6 final regular season game loss against Golden West home at The Snake Pit in Mission Viejo, Calif. on Nov. 16, 2013.  Photo by: Adam Kolvites

Saddleback College’s football team freshman¬†defensive back Langden Lapp (left) tackles Golden West College’s freshman wide receiver Nik Little in Saddleback’s 30-6 final regular season game loss against Golden West home at The Snake Pit in Mission Viejo, Calif. on Nov. 16, 2013.
Photo by: Adam Kolvites

The Saddleback College football team dropped its final game of the regular season Saturday night with a 30-6 loss to the visiting Golden West College Rustlers.

The loss drops the Gauchos to 5-5 for the year (3-3 in conference), but on Sunday it was announced Saddleback would be hosting Citrus College in the California Community College Athletics Association Beach Bowl on Nov. 23. If Saddleback loses to Citrus, the Gauchos will finish with a losing record for the first time since 2000, when they finished 3-7 in head coach Mark McElroy’s second season with the program.

The bowl matchup will be the 19th time that Saddleback has faced off against Citrus, and it will be the first time they’ve played each other since 1987, when the Gauchos throttled the Owls 55-9. The Gauchos have a 10-4-4 record against the Owls dating back to 1970.

Turnovers were the main issue for the Gauchos on Saturday, as they lost two fumbles and two interceptions to the Rustlers defense. The Rustlers have the top ranked passing defense in the Orange Empire conference, with opponents averaging only 203.3 yards passing per game. Golden West has allowed the fewest points to opponents this season (16.5 per game), and are second in the conference in interceptions (15) and fumble recoveries (13).

Saddleback also struggled with turnovers on downs. The Gauchos converted on third down only three times out of 14 attempts, and converted one fourth down out of five attempts.

Gauchos quarterback Tim Belman got off to a rough start in the first quarter, as he completed seven passes on 13 attempts while also throwing two interceptions.

“It’s a tough loss. We came into the game and we just didn’t get our rhythm going in the first half,” Belman said. “Nobody wants it to turn into a turnover battle, but unfortunately that’s what it did.”

Belman finished the night completing 33 of 53 passes for 314 yards and two interceptions. The loss marked the first time all season that Belman did not record a passing touchdown. The last game in which Belman did not throw for a touchdown was last year’s bowl game against Mt. San Antonio College, when the Gauchos lost 12-7.

The No. 9 ranked Gauchos will play at home in their final game of the season, hosting the No. 6 ranked Owls. Citrus College finished the regular season 7-3 (4-2 in conference), winning the National Conference Central Division title. The Owls will look to put pressure on Belman, as their defense led the division with 39 sacks.

Belman will look to set two additional records in his final game at Saddleback. He needs only 55 passing yards to break the national junior college record for career passing yards, previously held by former Marin College quarterback Geary Davenport (7,072). Belman can also set the school record for career passing touchdowns previously held by Ben Gomez with his next touchdown pass.

The game will start at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 23 at Saddleback’s home stadium.