Saddleback Wins A Wild One

Sean Reilly's (PHOTO; COURTESY SADDLEBACK) fifth touchdown pass of the day, a 2-yard toss to Rodney Woodland with 34.5 seconds left, lifted Saddleback to a 42-39 win over host Fullerton and a playoff berth in one of the wildest - and one of the best - games of the season Sunday afternoon.

Less than two minutes earlier, Fullerton (6-4, 3-2), down to probably its last play, took its first lead of the second half on an electrifying 69-yard fourth-down touchdown pass from Darius Banks to Willie Downs. The Hornets had trailed by 15 points in the first half and had rallied almost to the point of tying the game or taking the lead only to come away disappointed twice, and Downs' catch on a 4th and 4 with 2:17 left sent the home crowd into celebration.

That celebration, however, was short-lived. The 2:17 on the clock proved to be more than enough time for Reilly to lead Saddleback (8-2, 4-1) down the field, though the Gauchos faced their own fourth-down situation along the way. On fourth and 10 from the 50, Reilly hit Matt Belardes with a 13-yard pass to keep the drive alive. Then came four more complete passes and a pass interference penalty, followed by the game-winning touchdown pass to Woodland.

Those were just the final chapters of a truly outstanding game between two excellent teams. The Gauchos and the Hornets, vying for second place in the ultra-tough National Division's Southern Division, finished the day with more than one thousand yards of total offense. But the defenses asserted themselves at times as well, combining for nine quarterback sacks.

The game began with a surreal atmosphere, with two large cheering sections and some extra cheerleaders from Canyon HS in Anaheim, but no scoreboard clock (it finally became operable midway through the second quarter).

Fullerton started the game by taking the opening kickoff and driving 77 yards on 10 plays, scoring the game's first touchdown, appropriately enough, on a fourth-down pass from Banks to Downs from 26 yards out. On the conversion, however, the Hornets tried for two points and holder Zach Griffith threw to standout defensive tackle Uriah Grant, playing tight end on the converion team. But the Gauchos stopped Grant well short of the goal line, keeping the score 6-0.

And not only did Saddleback quickly answer with a scoring drive of its own, but Fullerton would spend much of the day chasing after that lost point.

The Gauchos' scoring drive came on their first possession, but that didn't come right away as the Hornets surprised pretty much everyone by executing an onsides kick after its first touchdown. Louis Covington recovered the loose ball for the Hornets. But this time Fullerton was unable to move the ball and punted after three plays.

Saddleback got the ball at its 7 after an excellent punt by Brian Blanke, but the Gauchos struck quickly, getting the ball out to the 40 and then getting on the board when Woodland took a screen pass from Reilly and burst through the defense for a 60-yard touchdown pass. Michael Frisina then came on and kicked the extra point to give Saddleback a 7-6 lead, and the Gauchos would hold that lead until the final 2:17.

And the game's next two touchdowns belonged to Saddleback, pushing the Gaucho lead to 21-6 late in the second quarter. First, Reilly threw a 47-yard touchdown pass to Julian Williams, who atoned for a dropped sure touchdown earlier in the game, to make it 14-6. Then, after Alex Castellanos recovered a fumble by Fullerton's Kelvin York, Reilly threw another touchdown pass to Williams, this one from 19 yards out, that made it 21-6 with 3:34 left in the second quarter.

York redeemed himself moments later, breaking through the line for a 79-yard touchdown run on a draw play on which the Hornets faced a 3rd and 10. That made it 21-13 at the half.

And the Hornets nearly pulled even early in the third quarter. Saddleback took the second half kickoff and drove near midfield, but then had to punt. And Fullerton's Geoffrey Norwood returned that punt 71 yards, bringing the ball all the way to the Saddleback 16. On the next play, Banks threw a touchdown pass to Thomas Clarkson to make it 21-19. The Hornets went for the two-point conversion and Banks found Downs all alone in the back of the end zone and threw him the ball; however, just before the ball arrived, Banks stepped on the back line, invalidating the catch and keeping the score 21-19 in favor of Saddleback.

Later in the third quarter, Saddleback extended its lead when Donnell Dickerson scored on an 11-yard run on an option play two plays after Dickerson delivered the block of the day during what became a 20-yard screen pass. That capped a drive that had been kept alive when Fullerton was flagged for having 12 men on the field during what would have been a Gaucho punt. Frisina's extra point made it 28-19. But Fullerton answered with a drive that was kept alive by a fake punt play on which Griffith threw a 15-yard pass to Brendan Haskins, getting back within two points on a 7-yatrd scoring run by York with 14:01 left in the game.

And then Fullerton did it again. The Hornets pulled off a successful onsides kick, that is, again surprising just about everyone and again it was Covington who recovered the ball. And this time Fullerton put together a drive, reaching the Gaucho 8. On the next play, Banks threw a swing pass to Kyle White, who seemed about to score the go-ahead touchdown when he lost the ball (perhaps as a result of a strip by Saddleback's Gary Stevenson) at the 1 yard line. The ball bounced through the end zone and over the back line, keeping the score 28-26 and giving the Gauchos the ball back with 9:43 left.

Saddleback answered quickly with a long drive of its own, covering the 80 yards on 8 plays and extending its lead to 35-26 when Reilly threw a 22-yard pass to Belardes with 6:13 left. That, and all those missed opportunities, seemed to indicate time had finally run out on Fullerton.

The Hornets, however, had other ideas. Moments later, Norwood took a short pass from Banks and turned it into a big play, speeding some 59 yards to get the ball to the Saddleback 2. York scored on the next play to make it 35-33 with 5:02 left. This time Fullerton kicked the ball deep, and the Hornet defense forced a punt after a nice play by Aaron Garbutt, who knocked down a 3rd down pass. After the punt, Fullerton got the ball at its own 25.

With just 3:26 left, Fullerton was virtually in desperation mode. An incomplete pass on first down didn't help. An 8-yard run by Banks on second down helped, but not enough, and when York was thrown for a 2-yard loss on 3rd down things looked truly desperate. On 4th and 4, Banks rolled out to his right, drew the defense, and while running nearly full speed lofted a long toss down the sideline. The ball seemed to hang in the air. But when it finally fell to earth, Downs hauled it in around midfield, turned and outran the Gaucho defense down the field for a most dramatic 69-yard touchdown pass that gave Fullerton a 39-35 lead.

But then came Saddleback's game-winning drive and Reilly's game-winning touchdown past to Woodland. Fullerton got the ball back one last time in the final seconds, but with so little time the Hornets had little chance and the game ended with a Taber Cheo sacking Banks on the final play.

For Saddleback, Reilly completed 34 of 50 passes for 390 yards and 5 touchdowns. Tavaurus Abram led all receivers with 10 catches, good for 88 yards, and Belardes had 9 catches for 92 yards. Williams had 7 catches for 124 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Woodland had 7 catches for 84 yards and a pair of scores. On the day, Saddleback ended up with exactly 500 yards of offense.

For Fullerton, Banks was also superb, completing 19 of 28 passes for 294 yards and 3 touchdowns. Downs had 6 catches for 127 yards and a pair of touchdowns. And York had another huge game with 26 carries for 167 yards and 3 touchdowns. Overall, Fullerton ended the day with 508 yards of offense.

With the win, the #2-ranked Gauchos will undoubtedly advance to the playoffs, which begin next Saturday. Fullerton, which entered the game ranked #5 after a last-minute loss to #1 Mt. San Antonio last week, will play in a bowl game next Saturday after a second straight heartbreaking loss.

Saddleback Gauchos 42
Fullerton Hornets 39

Saturday, November 13, 2010 – 1:15 pm - Titan Stadium (CSUF), Fullerton
National Division - South Conference

1st Quarter:
F - W.Downs 26 yd pass from Banks (pass failed) 9:15 (0-6)
S - Woodland 50 yd pass from Reilly (Frisina kick) 5:50 (7-6)

2nd Quarter:
S - Jul.Williams 47 yd pass from Reilly (Frisina kick) 5:03 (14-6)
S - Jul.Williams 19 yd pass from Reilly (Frisina kick) 3:34 (21-6)
F - York 79 yd run (Sandoval kick) 1:30 (21-13)

3rd Quarter:
F - Clarkson 16 yd pass from Banks (pass failed) 12:38 (21-19)
S - Dickerson 11 yd run (Frisina kick) 4:34 (28-19)

4th Quarter:
F - York 7 yd run (Sandoval kick) 14:01 (28-26)
S - Belardes 22 yd pass from Reilly (Frisina kick) 6:13 (35-26
F - York 2 yd run (Sandoval kick) 5:02 (35-33)
F - W.Downs 69 yd pass from Banks (pass failed) 2:17 (35-39)
S - Woodland 2 yd pass from Reilly (Frisina kick) 0:34.5 (42-39)

Team Statistics:
First Downs: Fullerton 22 (8 rush, 11 pass, 3 penalty), Saddleback 27 (7 rush, 17 pass, 3 penalty)
Rushes-Yds: Fullerton 44-199, Saddleback 23-110
Passing Yds: Fullerton 309, Saddleback 390
Comp-Att-Int: Fullerton 20-29-0, Saddleback 34-51-1
Return Yds: Fullerton 234, Saddleback 110
Sacks-Yds: Fullerton 4-29, Saddleback 5-18
Fumbles-Lost: Fullerton 3-2, Saddleback 0-0
Penalties-Yds: Fullerton 9-63, Saddleback 9-89
Time of Possession: Fullerton 35:32, Saddleback 24:28

Individual Statistics:
Rushing: F 3-York 26-167, 18-Norwood 5-24, 5-Bankks 12-8, 7-W.Downs 1-0;
S 11-Abram 5-47, 20-Dickerson 8-33, 10-Jul.Williams 3-13, 15-Woodland 2-5, 14-Reilly 5-(-22)
Passing: F 5-Banks 19-28-0-294, 3 TDs; 9=Griffith 1-1-0-15; S 14-Reilly 34-50-1-390, 5 TDs; 15-Woodland 0-1-0-0
Receiving: F 7-W.Downs 6-127, 18-Norwood 5-93, 2-Clarkson 3-39, 24-Davis 2-16, 39-Haskins 1-15, 83-Taylor 1-9, 47-White 1-7, 84-Dunford 1-3; S 11-Abram 10-88, 1-Belardes 9-92, 10-Jul.Williams 7-124, 15-Woodland 7-84, 20-Dickerson 1-2
Interceptions-Ret Yds: F 8-Richardson 1-0; S none
Fumble Rec-Ret Yds: F none; S 34-Castellanos 1-0, team 1-0
Sacks: F 49-Ike, 55-Garcia, 92-Brinson, 93-Grant; S 44-Cheo, 58-Chirinos, 90-Lindeman, 96-Long, 53-Graves ½, 97-Harrah ½
Punters: F 97-Blanke 3-42.0 avg; S 95-Rowland 4-44.8 avg
Kick Returns: F 6-Whigham 4-89, 83-Taylor 3-68; S 20-Dickerson 3-80, 15-Woodland 1-26
Punt Returns: F 18-Norwood 1-71, 2-Clarkson 1-6; S 11-Abram 2-4
Missed FG: F 4-Sandoval 42 yds (hit left post); S none

Notes: WOW what a game! Saddleback entered 7-2, #2 in South and #5 in nation (JCGW); Fullerton entered , 6-3#5 in South and #24 in nation. But both were 3-1 in National-South so this was for a playoff berth. Fullerton tried a fake 2-pt conversion after its 1st TD and Griffith passed to Grant but he was tackled short of the end zone. Fullerton tried an onsides kick after its 1st TD and 14-Covington recovered for the Hornets. Richardson and Belardes both caught the ball but Richardson outfought him for possession for the interception. Downs caught a pass in the end zone for what would have been a 2-pt conversion on Fullerton's 3rd TD but he stepped out of the back of the end zone one step prior. Griffith's pass to Haskins was on a fake punt play; Fullerton scored its 4th TD moments later. Then Fullerton tried an onsides kick on the ensuing kickoff, and Covington recovered the ball...again! Fullerton nearly took the lead with 9:43 left but White fumbled just before the goal line and the ball went through the end zone for a touchback. Fullerton's go-ahead TD came on a 4th and 4 from its own 31. But Saddleback still had enough time to drive for the winning score.

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