The Saddleback football team fell to 1-3 on the season with a 33-20 loss at home to Santa Ana College on Saturday night. The Gauchos led at halftime before going silent in the second half.
Saddleback has battled consistency throughout the season, playing at least one bad half in every game this season. It once again haunted them on Saturday night, as they went scoreless in the second half in losing their first game in National Division Southern Conference play.
Saddleback overcame a number of careless penalties in the first half in taking a 20-17 lead into the locker room. The Gauchos committed seven false start penalties in the first 30 minutes, but made just enough plays before the halftime festivities to give a ray of hope that their 11-game winning streak against the Dons would continue for one more season. Unfortunately, a pair of costly holding calls and an untimely interception derailed Saddleback in the second half, leading to their first loss against Santa Ana since 1998.
Saddleback had its chances to make some plays throughout the game, but it was the Dons that made a couple of critical plays when all the chips were on the line. Santa Ana was trailing 13-10 midway through the second quarter and the Gauchos had grabbed the momentum, when the Dons made a gutsy call and made it count. Facing a fourth down at the Saddleback 35-yard line, Santa Ana opted to try and make a first down and ended up cashing in big as quarterback Hayden Gavett threw a strike to Joshua Webb along the sidelines for a touchdown, giving Santa Ana the lead and grabbing back the momentum. Then with the Dons leading 27-20 midway through the fourth quarter, defensive back Romel Lilly stepped in front of a Jake Geringer pass along the sidelines and walked untouched into the end zone to give a Dons a 13-point lead, effectively taking the wind out of the Gauchos and their fans.
In the end, the game was very close and could have gone either way, with both teams making 23 first downs and Santa Ana holding a narrow 407-403 edge in total yardage. Saddleback running back Anthony Cade may have been the star of the game despite the loss on the scoreboard, finishing with 151 total rushing/receiving yards. Cade also made a couple of other big plays in the second half that were called back for offensive holding, often times looking like the top athlete on the field.
Saddleback will now have to pick up the pieces on the road next Saturday against one of only four undefeated teams in Southern California, Ventura College. The Gauchos will take on the Pirates at 6:00 pm in Ventura, in what is the first meeting between the two programs since 2002. Saddleback is 7-0 lifetime against Ventura dating back to 1978.
In addition to the game on Saturday night, Saddleback inducted 78 former athletes into the Saddleback Athletic Hall of Fame. Former Gauchos from a variety of sports were presented medals, including NCAA record-setting quarterback and two-time Heisman Trophy finalist Colt Brennan (University of Hawaii) as well as 2007 Fiesta Bowl hero Jerard Rabb (Boise State) whose touchdown run on a hook-and-lateral helped the Broncos defeat Oklahoma in overtime.