Gauchos survive against Warriors

photo c/o Cliff Robbins
photo c/o Cliff Robbins

The Saddleback football team improved to 4-0 on Saturday with a 48-45 win over El Camino College at the Saddleback Stadium.  The two teams combined for 76 points in the opening half, setting the stage for a hectic finish.

Saddleback led 41-35 at the intermission in a game where everyone in the crowd was scouring the record books to see what the highest scoring game in program history was heading into the final 30 minutes.  Little did the Gaucho fans know at the time, but Saddleback wouldn't score again until there was 1:29 remaining on the clock to pull out a come-from-behind win. 

Saddleback and El Camino combined for over 600 yards of offense in the first 30 minutes, with Saddleback quarterback Cam Humphrey throwing for 329 yards and five touchdowns.  From that point forward, Humphrey had tough sledding the rest of the way as the El Camino defense suddenly found its mojo coming out of the locker room and bottled up a Gaucho offense for most of the second half.  In the end, Saddleback's defense made some big plays to give the Gaucho offense one more chance in the final minutes, and they delivered like clockwork.

Saddleback looked dead in the water after El Camino took over the ball with 8:08 remaining and holding a four point lead (45-41).  The Warriors were driving and looked as if they were going to put the game away when a rash of penalties turned the tables.  El Camino ran the ball to the Gaucho 27-yard line but was flagged for holding, moving the ball back to the 37-yard line and setting up second down and 17 yards-to-go for a first down.  On the next play, the Warriors were penalized for a personal foul after the play, backing them up to the 49-yard line to set up a third and 29.  The Gaucho defense then stepped up and sacked quarterback Cole Klayman for an 11-yard loss, backing them up to their own 40-yard line and forcing a punt.   Things turned from bad to worse for El Camino when their punter shanked his kick, giving the Gauchos the ball at their own 45-yard line with 3:49 left on the clock.

On the very first play, Humphrey threw a ball over the head of his intended receiver Clinton Allen 20 yards down the field, but El Camino was again whistled for a penalty when defensive back De'Edward Cormier was flagged for a personal foul for hitting a defenseless player.  This gave the Gauchos the ball down at the El Camino 40 with the clock running under three minutes remaining.  Saddleback briefly returned the favor when Humphrey found Lorenzo Thompson for an 18-yard gain, only to get whistled for holding to back them up to midfield.  Humphrey was determined, however, finding Tylon Freeman on the next play for a 20-yard gain as the Gauchos moved the sticks for a first down with the clock approaching two minutes.  The Gauchos then went to the ground, running Emari Demercado into the line on consecutive plays for five yards each as they earned a first down at the El Camino 20.  Things then started to look dicey when Humphrey was off the mark on consecutive plays to set up a third and 10.  Humphrey again battled back, finding Tylon Freeman for a nine-yard gain, setting up a fourth and one from the Warrior 11-yard line with just 1:35 remaining on the clock.  The Gauchos set up in a jumbo package, bringing in a ton of beef to try and extend the game with a first down.  They handed the ball off to Connor McBride right up the middle, who went nearly untouched into the end zone as the crowd erupted in celebration.  The Gauchos had taken the lead with 1:29 remaining on the clock.

El Camino had one more opportunity, starting at their own 25-yard line.  After a couple of completions to get the Warriors to the 45, things went silent for the Warriors.  Clayman's next three passes all fell incomplete, setting up a fourth and 10 with just 43 seconds remaining.  The Gauchos called a timeout to give a jolt of energy to their defensive linemen.  It worked, as Sefo Mailangi and Joe Babros greeted Clayman nine yards behind the line of scrimmage for a game-clinching sack.

Saddleback and El Camino combined for 1,003 yards in the game.  Humphrey finished 35-for-54 with 430 yards and five touchdown passes (all in the first half).  Clinton Allen had a career night at receiver, finishing with 12 receptions for 178 yards and three touchdowns.  Donte Hamilton and Kimani Keith both led the Saddleback defense with nine tackles apiece while Jake Hudson led the defensive front with two sacks for the game.

Saddleback will be back on the road next Saturday when they travel to Ventura College to take on the Pirates (2-2).  Kickoff is scheduled for 6:00 PM.