The Saddleback football team defeated Bakersfield College, 34-31, in the Patriotic Bowl on Saturday night in Mission Viejo. Gaucho kicker Matthew Freem drilled a 32-yard field goal in the final seconds as Saddleback finishes the season on a high note.
Seven weeks ago Saddleback looked like a team miles away from any post-season hopes. The Gauchos were 2-3 heading into the bye week after a 45-7 drubbing from Mt. San Antonio College in their homecoming game. Saddleback bounced back to win five of their last six games, including the heroic win on Saturday in the Patriotic Bowl.
Saddleback and Bakersfield was an instant classic, with neither team ever leading by more than seven points. The game had five lead changes and was tied at three different points, with Saddleback finally taking the lead for good with nine seconds remaining when Freem connected for a go-ahead field goal from 32 yards away. The kick came after Bakersfield coach Jeff Chudy took three consecutive time outs in order to freeze the kicker. To no avail, Freem broke out a huge ice pick and split the uprights as the Gauchos improved to 3-2 lifetime against the Renegades.
Saddleback rolled up 482 yards of offense in the game, but was unable to shake the Renegades until the final seconds. The Gauchos took the ball over with 3:19 remaining in a 31-31 game and drove 60 yards to the Bakersfield 15-yard line when Robbie Patterson spiked the ball to stop the clock. Along the way, Saddleback moved the chains four times, including a pair of third down conversions. Patterson was 7-of-9 on the drive in finishing 24-of-37 for 285 yards and one touchdown pass. His lone touchdown was a 71-yard strike to Austin Derrico that gave the Gauchos a 24-21 lead late in the third quarter.
Saddleback was a force on the ground, putting up 197 rushing yards against a Bakersfield defense that came into the game ranked No. 8 in the state in scoring defense. The Gauchos rolled with the combination of Jerome Johnson and Jonathan Jefferson, who combined for 186 yards and three scores on the ground.
Saddleback's defense was guided by Segun Olubi, who registered his biggest game of the season. Olubi finished with 12 total tackles, also registering two tackles-for-loss and one sack. The Gauchos finished with six pass break-ups in the secondary, with Tyler Noble leading the unit with three.
Saddleback finishes the season 7-4 overall. It's the 15th time in the past 18 seasons that the Gauchos have won at least seven games.