The Southern California Regional Playoffs are set and the Saddleback football team has qualified. The Gauchos are the No. 4 seed as an at-large bid and will play against top-seed Fullerton College next Saturday at Whittier College.
Saddleback won decisively on Saturday over Orange Coast (52-27) and then sat around waiting to see what happened in other games. All eyes were on Riverside versus Mt. San Antonio, with a handful paying attention to what happened between Long Beach City and El Camino. As it turned out, both games played a large hand in the Gauchos making the playoffs. With Mt. San Antonio upsetting Riverside (24-17), Saddleback needed help from Long Beach City in order to qualify. A win by Long Beach City would give the Central League a three-way tie, with tiebreaker going to Riverside. The Vikings pulled it out over El Camino (55-48), and the Gauchos finished with a higher Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) for the at-large bid than both College of the Canyons and Mt. San Antonio, giving them the No. 4 seed for the upcoming playoffs.
Saddleback will now travel to Whitter College to face Fullerton, who finished the season 10-0. The Hornets had the highest RPI in the southern half of the state and defeated the Gauchos three weeks ago, 56-35. In that game, Saddleback carried a 21-14 lead into the locker room at halftime before a rough third quarter derailed their plans. The Gauchos were outscored 28-0 in the third quarter and never recovered against the high-powered Hornets, leaving them playing a numbers game over the final three weeks in order to qualify as an at-large bid.
Historically speaking, the rivalry is about as close as it can get. Saddleback holds a 17-16 lifetime advantage over Fullerton following the game three weeks ago and won cliffhangers in both 2015 (39-36) and 2016 (30-27). The Gauchos are one of only two teams to have led Fullerton in any game this season (Grossmont, 3-0, Q1), and the only team to hold a lead on the Hornets after the opening 12 minutes of any game this year.
The game is scheduled to be played at Whitter College at 1:00 PM. Fullerton normally plays its home games at Yorba Linda High School, but YLHS does not have college goal posts or hash marks which is a new rule in place for the 2017 playoffs.
The other Southern California semifinal will feature (3) Ventura traveling to (2) Riverside.