The Saddleback football team defeated Long Beach City College, 45-35, on Saturday night in Long Beach. It was the 14th straight win against the Vikings, dating back to the 2000 season.
Saddleback had its hands full heading to Long Beach to face a Viking squad with a ton of talent. The Gauchos rallied in the second half despite surrendering 551 yards of offense to Long Beach City. Saddleback trailed 21-7 late in the first half before going on a 38-7 run to turn back the Vikings.
Long Beach City got off to a quick start thanks to the hot hand of quarterback Grant Lowary. He opened the game with a 60-yard scoring strike to Jabari Minix for a 7-0 lead in what would be the first of four touchdown passes on the night. The Gauchos answered on the final play of the opening quarter when Max Gilliam connected with Lorenzo Thompson from 12-yards out to tie the game at 7-7.
Lowary's second touchdown was an 8-yard connection to Cedric Byrd with 9:07 remaining in the half for a 14-7 lead for Long Beach City. The Vikings would quickly get the ball back and score again when Elijah Bynum raced 11 yards for a 21-7 lead.
From that point forward, Saddleback flipped a switch and dominated the game. The Gauchos would score with 1:52 remaining in the half on a three-yard run by Connor McBride to cut the lead to 21-14, changing the momentum heading into the locker room.
Long Beach City received the ball to open the second half looking to regain the momentum. Five plays later, Bynum would fumble at his own 46 yard line. The ball was picked up by Joe Babros (pictured), who returned it 46 yards for a score as Saddleback tied the game at 21-21.
The Saddleback defense then started to get pressure on Lowary, making things uncomfortable for the sophomore. On the ensuing drive, Sefo Mailangi sacked Lowary for an eight yard loss and later Christian Rabay hurried a throw on fourth down as the Gauchos took the ball over on downs. It was the first of three straight drives where the Vikings would fail to convert on fourth down as the Gaucho defense was gaining momentum. Saddleback would take its first lead of the game midway through the third quarter when Cam Humphrey found Clinton Allen for an 18-yard score and a 28-21 lead.
The two teams traded possessions before Long Beach finally found some life. The Vikings drove 72 yards in five plays with Lowary finding Byrd on a 29-yard strike to tie the game at 28-28. The tie was short-lived, however, as Saddleback mounted an eight-play, 67-yard drive with DaQu'an Davis scoring on a two-yard sweep for a 35-28 lead.
Long Beach then received a couple of gifts from the Saddleback defense as the Gauchos were whistled for 25 yards in penalties in giving the Vikings the ball in Gaucho territory. Saddleback quickly took back the gifts when Jake Hudson planted Lowary on the turf on third and long, with the ball coming loose and a group of Gauchos falling on it.
With just under eight minutes remaining, Saddleback then took over the ball at their own 25-yard line with a chance to put the game away. The Gauchos mustered an eight-play drive in which Humphrey found Clinton Allen three times. The drive stalled at the Long Beach 25-yard line, leaving the Gauchos with a tough decision to either try a long field goal or attempt to pick up four yards for a first down. Saddleback chose to put the game into the leg of their sophomore kicker Mateo Thompson, who blasted a 42-yard field goal through the uprights for a 38-28 lead with 5:06 remaining in the game.
Now down 10 points with the clock winding down, Long Beach was running out of gas. Lowary started by throwing three incomplete passes, setting up a fourth and 10 from the Viking 25-yard line. He then connected on fourth down with Byrd, but a quick tackle by Darryl Wyrick left Long Beach five yards short as Saddleback again stopped the Vikings on fourth down. It was the fourth time in the second half that the Gaucho defense had come up stiff on fourth down, putting the game out of reach. Saddleback would add icing to the cake three plays later when Humphrey hit Emari Demercado on a swing pass and he sliced through the Viking defense for a 28-yard score.
Saddleback's defense finished the game with eight sacks of Lowary for the night, with Kimani Keith finishing with 2.5 sacks and Jake Hudson and Sefo Mailangi two apiece. Hudson was the defensive star of the game, finishing with eight tackles, 2.5 sacks, one forced fumble and two quarterback hurries.
On offense, Allen had a big night at receiver. The freshman from Bishop Blanchet High School (WA) totaled eight catches for 122 yards and one score. Demercado led the ground game with 39 yards while Humphrey was 13-for-21 through the air for 196 yards and two touchdowns.
A game ball could also be awarded to the special teams as Thompson nailed the 42-yard field goal and punter Brendan Satchfield averaged 42.5 yards-per-punt on six attempts.
Saddleback is now 2-0 and heads on the road for a game at Los Angeles Harbor College next Saturday. The Gauchos were originally scheduled to play the game at home when the schedules came out last year, but ended up having to host the Seahawks last year when Harbor was having problems with their stadium. Game time is scheduled for 6:00 PM.