The Saddleback football team finished the regular season 8-2 after a 52-27 win over Orange Coast College on Saturday in Costa Mesa. The Gauchos will find out Sunday about bowl and playoff scenarios.
Saddleback started slowly on Saturday but eventually cranked up the engine. The Gauchos fell behind 14-0 in the opening quarter before waking up late for a rare day game. Saddleback finally stopped hitting the snooze button with 18 seconds remaining in the opening quarter when Emari Demercado took a swing pass from Cam Humphrey and raced 38 yards to cut the OCC lead to 14-7.
The Saddleback defense then took control of the game, shutting down an offense that had shown some life over the opening 10 minutes. The Gauchos got even midway through the second quarter when Max Gilliam found Clinton Allen for a 10-yard touchdown pass. It was part of a six play, 47-yard drive and seemed to inspire the team on the sidelines.
The defense then stopped Orange Coast on consecutive drives, giving Saddleback the ball at their own 28-yard line with just 28 seconds remaining in the half. Rather than running out the clock, Saddleback opted to turn up the juice and try to get some points. The Gauchos raced right down the field with completed passes to Liam Eldridge, Allen and again Eldridge as they reached the Pirate 23-yard line with four seconds remaining in the half. Mateo Thompson was then called upon to deliver a 40-yard field goal as the Gauchos took a 17-14 lead into the locker room.
On Saddleback's first drive of the second half they took control of the game. On the third play of the drive, Demercado took a pitch around the left end and scampered 60 yards for his second score of the game. It was Demercado's 14th rushing touchdown of the season and gave the Gauchos a 24-14 lead.
Following a stop by the defense, Allen then got back into the action with his second touchdown of the game on a 31-yard strike from Gilliam. It was Allen's 12th receiving touchdown of the season, equaling the fourth highest total by a Gaucho receiver in program history. It also gave Saddleback a commanding 31-14 lead with 6:15 remaining in the third quarter.
Orange Coast briefly got themselves back within two scores when Nico Jackson punched it in from three yards out to cut the Saddleback lead to 31-20 with 7:38 remaining in the game. The surge by the Pirates would last exactly 16 seconds when Tyler Noble returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards, giving the Gauchos a 38-20 lead.
Following another Orange Coast Score, Demercado decided to get his name further up the all-time list when he scored from one-yard out for a 45-27 lead. It was his 15th rushing touchdown of the season, tying him for the sixth highest single-season total in program history.
Demercado finished with 128 yards rushing on 14 attempts while catching seven balls for another 103 yards. It's the third straight week that he has had over 200 yards of total offense. Demercado now has 1,009 yards rushing and 418 yards receiving, totaling 17 total touchdowns for the year.
Allen was his equal on Saturday, catching nine balls for 168 yards and two scores. He now has 65 receptions for 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns for the season.
Humphrey and Gilliam split time at quarterback and were both sensational. The duo finished 26-of-38 for 421 yards and three scores. The defense received interceptions from Tyler Noble and Jack Dexter while Tristan Kafentzis, Donte Hamilton and Brad Toepfer all had a team-high six tackles.
Saddleback will find out whether or not it makes the playoffs on Sunday when the pairings and bowl announcements are made. Keep it tuned to saddlebackgauchos.com for all the breaking news or follow Saddleback athletics on Twitter with The Gaucho Dude @SCGauchos