Saddleback got back in the win column Saturday night in Fullerton with a 44-29 victory over the Hornets, breaking open a kicker's duel in the first half to pull away with big plays in the second half.
The first half scoring see-sawed back and forth as both teams matched up equally. Saddleback freshman receiver Eric Lauderdale caught a 29-yard pass to put the Gauchos up 7-3 in the first quarter but Fullerton countered with an 80-yard run by Lavorrie Johnson to regain the lead, 10-7. Just 20 seconds later, Saddleback answered back as Josh Hawkins (pictured left) scampered for a 76-yard of his own and a 14-10 Gaucho lead. Before the end of the first quarter, Fullerton would march the length of the field to add another touchdown, reclaiming the lead at 17-14.
The second quarter saw plenty of offense, just no pay-dirt, as the field goal kickers became the featured attraction. Saddleback's Ryan Steska kicked all three of his field goals in the second quarter, connecting on boots of 23, 22, and 31 yards. Fullerton's Jesse Aguilar poked a 45-yard kick through the uprights, accounting for one of his school-record tying five field goals on the evening. Saddleback would hold a slim 23-20 lead at the intermission.
Saddleback's second-half adjustments were just what the team needed to pull away from the Hornets. The Gauchos struck first with Anthony Cade catching an 8-yard scoring pass from Tim Belman (pictured left) to give Saddleback a 10-point cushion. Fullerton would answer with its own scoring drive, but would only be able to post field goals while watching Saddleback post touchdowns for the rest of the night. Both teams scored three times in the second half, including Gaucho touchdown receptions by James Marshall (four yards) and Lauderdale (48 yards) to account for the final point spread.
Lauderdale had a big night for the Gauchos, hauling in 10 receptions for 191 yards and those two touchdowns, while Cade accounted for 181 all-purpose yards. Belman connected on 38 of his 58 pass attempts for 445 yards and four touchdowns.
Johnson was Fullerton's biggest offensive threat, finishing with 272 all-purpose yards. Hornet quarterback Conor Bednarski had 326 passing yards, but the Gaucho defense got to him for five sacks, five hurries, and three interceptions. Linebacker Colten Christensen returned one of those interceptions 37 yards to the Fullerton 2-yard line in the second quarter. Although he ended up in the endzone, officials ruled he stepped out of bounds shy of the goal line. That return led to a field goal.
Saddleback will return home this Saturday, hosting Orange Coast College at 6:00 p.m. in the stadium.