Saddleback’s AJ Newman (#6, center) attempts to intercept a pass. The play would result in a touchdown for Cerritos College. (Niko LaBarbera/Lariat)
The 2015 Saddleback Gauchos football season is officially underway. With the first game against the Cerritos College Falcons under their pads the Gauchos know they’re good, but there is always room for improvement.
The game began with an exciting interception by Gauchos safety Kai Ross on the Saddleback three-yard line. Following the interception both teams struggled to move downfield, leaving the first quarter scoreless.
The early season adjustment process seemed to plague both teams in the early goings of the game. Saddleback’s sophomore quarterback Johnny Stanton was asked about his game one performance.
“Obviously I had a lot of flaws and mistakes, and first game jitters,” Stanton said. “It was the first time I had really played football in three years,” said Stanton.
Early in the second quarter the Gauchos started to get things moving, driving 20 yards down field. The drive came to an abrupt halt when Stanton was intercepted by Cerritos defensive back Elijah Walker. The ensuing play resulted in a 51-yard touchdown pass by the Falcons, giving them a 6-0 lead.
The Gauchos remained undeterred; on their next possession they began a march down field electing to keep the ball on the ground. They handed the ball off 6 times while completing two passes, one of which resulted in a 14-yard touchdown pass from Stanton to sophomore wide receiver Dominic Collins. The Gauchos would fail on their extra point attempt tying the game at 6-6.
A 46-yard drive late in second quarter by Cerritos, resulted in a 17-yard touchdown pass that gave the Falcons a 13-6 lead at halftime.
The Gauchos possess two talented quarterbacks on their roster. Head coach Mark McElroy had a decision to make during the game.
“Both of them are very good quarterbacks and I told them in advance I was going to play both of them” said McElroy.
True to his word, McElroy played starter Johnny Stanton throughout much of the game, but inserted freshmen Jacob Gibson into the game for some second half reps at the beginning of the third quarter.
A pair of fumbles by Saddleback early in the third quarter made things a little interesting. A costly pass interference penalty on a third and 11 gave Cerritos the momentum they needed to score another touchdown, further widening the gap between them and the Gauchos. The Falcons failed on the ensuing extra point attempt and took a 19-6 lead, which they kept for the remainder of the third quarter.
Finishing a 55-yard drive that began in the late in the third quarter, Stanton next scored a three-yard touchdown run. A successful extra point closed the gap and the Gauchos trailed 19-13.
The Gauchos were second away from potential tying the game, but turned the ball over with 10 seconds remaining. (Niko LaBarbera/Lariat)
Cerritos responded with a 62-yard drive, extending their lead to 26-13.
After a fourth quarter Stanton fumble turning possession over to the Falcons, doubt was beginning to set in. Two plays later Cerritos fumbled on their 17-yard line which the Gauchos recovered, exciting the crowd and giving the team a surge of energy to construct an effective comeback. The Gauchos rushed their way 17 yards into the end zone drawing closer, but still trailing 26-20.
The Saddleback defense then stopped the Cerritos offense and forced them to punt giving the Gauchos a chance for a last offensive drive.
The drive, which began at their own 31-yard line ended to the sound of bitter disappointment when Stanton was intercepted two yards from the end zone. Cerritos was then able to run to clock to zero ending the game.
“Two good teams, both played hard and I just thought it was unfortunate we lost the football game,” McElroy said. “Our kids played with a lot of heart and passion and toughness.”
The Gauchos ground attack was led by sophomore Myron Buchanan. Buchanan had 18 carries for 87 net rushing yards, while averaging 4.7 yards per rush attempt. Buchanan also added 3 receptions for 34 yards and a touchdown. Buchanan recognized his successes, but gave praise to his teammates.
“I wanna give it up to my lineman, they came out working hard, so I could run the ball and give all glory to God,” Buchanan said.
Saddleback’s passing was led by Stanton, who went 12 for 27 for 128 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Stanton also rushed for 71 net yards and two touchdowns.
The Gauchos defense had a lot of players making marks on the stat sheet. Blake Whitlock, Lamar Madkin, Zachary Wade, Shaquan Whitaker, and Marcus Meredith all had six or more total tackles.
The Gauchos also had an injury to Korey Mariboho, an offensive lineman the team cannot afford to miss for the season. McElroy was asked about the injury after the game.
“I really don’t know. All I know is that I was told he possibly dislocated his ankle,” McElroy said.
The next opponent for the Gauchos was Riverside City College whom they lost to 38-18. The Gauchos will travel to play El Camino College on Saturday, Sept. 19 at 5 p.m. The game will be played at Redondo Union High School.