Gauchos recover for comeback win

Saddleback recovers one of the six Vikings fumbles in Saturday's 38-35 comeback victory.

Saddleback recovers one of the six Vikings fumbles in Saturday’s 38-35 comeback victory.

LONG BEACH, Calif. – Mark McElroy was coaching two different football teams Saturday night against Long Beach City College. The first was a team that gave up the ball to its opponent five different times and came back to the locker room down 28-3. The second rallied back to eventually win the game.

Saddleback, by far, had its toughest challenge of the season as it scored 35 points in the second half to come back and defeat the Vikings, 38-35.

As the final buzzer sounded, the Gauchos glanced over at the scoreboard with smiles and a sigh of relief.

“That was the craziest first half I’ve ever been a part of in my entire life,” McElroy said. “I told the guys at half time, this is actually kind of a challenge for us to see what we are made of. Some guys get excited about this kind of thing, and I am one of those guys.”

The Gauchos started the game by giving the ball to LBCC on two forced turnovers. Quarterback Brian Shrock was intercepted by Vikings Jason Brown for a 49-yard touchdown return and then a fumble in the backfield gave Long Beach a two touchdown lead.

“It was not good. Everything was not going my way,” Shrock said. “I think everyone was a little off. I felt that we maybe underestimated this team.”

The turnover woes continued as punter Eric Carr missed the snap, setting up another Viking touchdown.

After Long Beach scored its fourth touchdown with 17 seconds remaining in the first half on a two-yard pass to Dalton Etimani, the Gauchos slowly walked toward the locker room.

“In the first half we had our heads down, but Saddleback has so much pride in its team. Everyone said, ‘Let’s fight and do our jobs,'” said wide receiver Maurice Clark. “At halftime Coach said, ‘We know how good we are, so let’s go out and prove it.'”

In the second half Long Beach was playing against a different team. The Gauchos came out scoring 21 unanswered points.

Shrock first found wide receiver Nick Hutter for a 31-yard touchdown pass, then soon after found Clark and running back Cheyne Verhagen for two more touchdown passes.

With three touchdowns in the quarter, he finished the game with 324 yards passing, four touchdowns and 63 yards rushing.

“I’m a competitive guy, so, in the second half, I just wanted to win,” Shrock said.

LBCC showed life in the final quarter as trickery came out of the Viking’s playbook with an option pass from wide receiver Stephen Burton to Johnny McNeil, setting up a one-yard touchdown run, giving the Vikings the lead back.

“Even though we were down, I wasn’t that nervous because I knew that our offense was starting to get it going and I really thought defensively that we could stop their offense,” said Saddleback’s defensive coordinator Steve Crapo. “I knew we had time and I understand how long 30 minutes is. If we could cause a couple turnovers we could get back in this game.”

Saddleback completed the victory on a final touchdown run by freshman Josh Farrell with four minutes to go to seal the victory, 38-35.

With the offense leading the comeback, the defense came through as well.

“The defense played great in the second half,” McElroy said. “They came together with much more intensity.”

Saddleback will returnshome to face Fullerton College on Saturday at 5 p.m.