The Saddleback football team defeated Long Beach City College, 43-17, on Saturday night in the Southern California championship game. The Gauchos will face City College of San Francisco on December 12 in San Francisco for the state title.
Saddleback shot out of the gate quickly and never looked back, darting to a 30-3 halftime lead on way to a comfortable win. The Gauchos rolled up 296 yards of offense in the opening half behind the guidance of sophomore quarterback Johnny Stanton. The bounce back player from the University of Nebraska threw for 224 yards and three scores over the first 30 minutes, also rushing for 79 as Long Beach City had no answers.
Saddleback had a few hiccups in the second half as Long Beach tried to make a comeback. The Vikings took advantage of a couple of fumbles in closing the gap to 30-17 with 11:59 remaining in the game. The Gauchos quickly responded, returning the kickoff to the Long Beach 37 yard-line and scoring three plays later when Stanton found Dominic Collins on a 5-yard slant play. It upped the lead to 37-17 with 9:54 remaining in the game and essentially put the final nail in the coffin for a Viking team that entered the game at 10-1 on the season. Saddleback would add another insurance score in the final minutes when Zach Davis raced around the right end for a 17-yard score.
Stanton finished the game 37-of-51 for 390 yards and four touchdown passes, two of which went to Collins. The sophomore wide receiver from El Toro High School has now caught five touchdown passes in the past two weeks. Stanton also led Saddleback with 96 yards rushing as the Gauchos rolled up 519 yards of total offense.
The defense was again solid, bottling up a Vikings offense that came into the game on a hot streak. The Gauchos forced a number of errant throws by Long Beach quarterback Jack Lowary, who completed just 19-of-45 passes for 179 yards, including a pair of interceptions. Lowary was picked off by Anthony Hickey on the third play of the game and later in the quarter was intercepted by Kai Ross. The Gauchos turned the two turnovers into 13 points, putting the Vikings into an early hole.
Saddleback now has eight interceptions in the last two weeks after totaling just eight in the first 10 games of the season. Zachary Wade, Blake Whitlock and Ross all finished with a game-high six tackles while Jeff Holsinger was a constant thorn in the Vikings' side, finishing with three tackles-for-loss.
Saddleback improved to 10-2 on the season with the win after starting the year 0-2. For the Gauchos, it is their first 10-game win streak since starting the 2006 season 11-0.
The win puts Saddleback in the state championship game on December 12 at City College of San Francisco as CCSF defeated Chabot College, 40-30, in the Northern California championship game earlier in the day. Saddleback has played City College of San Francisco one time, defeating the Rams 24-12 to win their second of three mythical national titles in 1992. The same could be riding on the line this time around as San Francisco entered the week at #1 in the JCGridiron.com Dirty 30 Rankings while the Gauchos were #5. JCGridiron.com will release its next rankings on Monday and Saddleback is expected to move upwards in the rankings after beating a Long Beach City team that was ranked #7.