Mt. SAC rallied from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit to claim first place in the rugged National Division's South Conference with its 14th straight conference victory.
Like zombies in a vintage horror movie, or like the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals in the recent historic game six of the World Series, Mt. SAC just refused to die or be defeated. The Mounties trailed by ten points late in the third quarter, tied the game, then fell behind by 14 in the fourth quarter, then tied the game, then fell behind on a field goal with 2:20 left before Duncan's touchdown finally gave Mt. SAC its first and only lead of the second half.
The teams combined for 46 points in a wild fourth quarter. But before that, the game was largely dominated by the defenses. Saddleback took advantage of two Mt. SAC turnovers for 10 points, which was the difference as the Gauchos built a 17-7 lead midway through the third quarter. And even after being called for a safety for intentional grounding in the end zone, Saddleback held a 17-9 lead entering the final quarter.
And what a fourth quarter it was. Mt. SAC scored a touchdown and a 2-point conversion with 13:45 left to tie the score at 17. Then Saddleback scored two touchdowns in 1:03 to take what appeared to be a commanding 31-17 lead with 10:34 remaining, only to see Mt. SAC score two touchdowns in less than three minutes to tie the score at 31 with 6:27 left. Then Saddleback's Michael Bowlin kicked a 36-yard field goal with 2:20 left to put the Gauchos back in front, 34-31, only for the Mounties to score the game-winning touchdown 21 seconds later on Duncan's end-around.
The game started with Mt. SAC receiving the opening kickoff, but Saddleback got the ball less than two minutes into the game on an interception by Darian Yahyavi. The Gauchos were stopped on fourth down at the Mounties' 9 after a great tackle by Mt. SAC's Richard Thorpe, but got the ball back again just three plays later on an interception by Kyle Smith. Three plays later, Rodney Woodland scored on a 15-yard run to give the Gauchos a 6-0 lead, though the extra point was wide left.
Mt. SAC answered with an 11-play, 69-yard drive that ended with a 16-yard touchdown pass from Cameron Deen to Alonzo Agwuenu with 1:50 left in the first quarter, and Travis Coons' extra point gave the Mounties a 7-6 lead. But Saddleback answered back just over two minutes later when James Poole scored on a 34-yard run for the Gauchos' second touchdown of the afternoon. Ben Gomez threw a short pass to tight end Kevin Schick for the two-point conversion that made it 14-7, which is where things stood at halftime.
Saddleback extended its lead to 17-7 midway through the third quarter on a 23-yard field goal by Bowlin. That came after J.B. Torsy recovered a fumble caused by Denzel Wilson on a punt return near midfield.
The sequence that led to the safety began with a booming 63-yard punt by Daniel Colby that rolled dead at the Saddleback 12. A false start penalty and a 3-yard sack by Koliniasi Leota pushed the Gauchos back to the 4, and on the next play Gomez, under heavy pressure from Derek Brandon, threw the ball away but was flagged for intentional grounding in the end zone. That made it 17-9 with 3:12 left in the third quarter, and that was still the score entering the final period.
Mt. SAC tied the score just 1:15 into the fourth quarter when Deen connected with Agwuenu for a second time on a touchdown pass, this one from 11 yards out that made it 17-15. Then Deen threw a pass to a wide-open Duncan in the end zone for the two-point conversion that tied the score at 17, much to the delight of the large, vocal Mt. SAC crowd on the home side of the stands.
But just over three minutes later, it seemed Saddleback had re-taken control and even put the game away. The Gauchos put together a quick, 7-play, 73-yard drive that ended with Gomez throwing a 15-yard touchdown pass to Kasey Closs with 11:37 left to make it 24-17. Then, after Yahyavi's second interception of the game, which he returned to the Mt. SAC 26, Woodland scored his second touchdown of the game on a double-handoff play from 12 yards out to make it 31-17 with 10:34 left in the fourth quarter. And when the Gauchos forced a Mt. SAC punt and got the ball back with 9:13 left, it seemed Saddleback had control of the game.
And then it changed quickly. Saddleback's Anthony Cade fumbled as he carried the ball through the line, and Mt. SAC's Ashtun Williams not only scooped up the ball but also returned it 16 yards for a touchdown to make it 31-24 with 9:04 left. Then, the fired-up Mt. SAC defense forced a Saddleback punt. And when the offense got the ball, Deen led a quick, 5-play drive that tied the game when Christian Bobo scored on a 30-yard touchdown run with 6:27 left that made it 31-31.
Saddleback answered with a long, 13-play, 60-yard drive that chewed up more than four minutes before Bowlin booted his second field goal of the game, a 36-yarder that made it 34-31. That gave Saddleback, which handed Mt. SAC its last National Division loss back in September, 2009, its third different lead of the fourth quarter.
The lead lasted just 21 seconds, however, as Mt. SAC came back one more time. A 42-yard kickoff return by Josh Martin kick-started the Mounties, getting the ball to the 43. And on the very next play, Duncan took a handoff as he headed towards the right sideline, eluded a pair of would-be tacklers in the backfield, and sped down the sideline for what turned out to be the 57-yard touchdown run with 1:59 left.
Still, that left more than enough time for Saddleback to retake the lead. The Gauchos returned the kickoff to the 30, and quickly gained a pair of first downs, reaching the Mt. SAC 45. An 8-yard pass got the Gauchos to the Mt. SAC 37. But a 7-yard loss on a sack by Julian Gener on third down pushed the Gauchos back to the 44, and on fourth down Gomez' 60th and final pass attempt of the day fell to the turf, ending Saddleback's final comeback chance and clinching the win for the Mounties.
For Mt. SAC, Deen completed 17 of 37 passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns. Bobo rushed for 72 yards on 9 carries, including a touchdown, and Michael Botello had 69 yards on 14 carries. Agwuenu led Mt. SAC receivers with 6 catches for 81 yards and two touchdowns. Leota led a Mounties' defense that registered 7 quarterback sacks on the day.
For Saddleback, Gomez had an outstanding day, completing 36 of 60 passes without an interception, good for 314 yards and a touchdown. Closs had 8 catches for 96 yards, while Woodland and Exavier Edwards-Ford each had 8 catches for 54 yards. Poole led Gaucho rushers with 53 yards rushing on 9 carries. Yahyavi had two of Saddleback's three interceptions, and the Gauchos also registered six quarterback sacks.
In fact, it's difficult to discern from the statistics just how Saddleback came out second-best. The Gauchos had more offense, 446 yards to 354, and forced 4 turnovers to just 1 forced by Mt. SAC. Saddleback had more first downs, 31 to 21 and had more time of possession (32:30 to 27:30). Quarterback sacks were nearly even (6 for 35 yards for Saddleback compared to 7 for 35 yards for Mt. SAC), as were penalties (11 for 115 yards against Mt. SAC compared to 11 for 110 yards against Saddleback). But the Mounties came out on top, thanks to a magnificent fourth quarter that included the three separate rallies.
Mt. San Antonio Mounties 38
Saddleback Gauchos 34
Saturday, October 29, 2011 - 1 pm - Hilmer Lodge Stadium, Walnut
National Division - South Conference
S - Woodland 15 yd run (kick wide left) 5:33 (0-6)
M - Agwuenu 16 yd pass from Deen (Coons kick) 1:50 (7-6)
S - Poole 34 yd run (Schick pass from Gomez) 14:47 (7-14)
S - FG Bowlin 23 yds 7:21 (7-17)
M - Safety - intentional grounding in end zone 3:12 (9-17)
M - Agwuenu 11 yd pass from Deen (Duncan pass from Deen) 13:45 (17-17)
S - Closs 15 yd pass from Gomez (Bowlin kick) 11:37 (17-24)
S - Woodland 12 yd run (Bowlin kick) 10:34 (17-31)
M - Williams 16 yd fumble return (Coons kick) 9:04 (24-31)
M - Bobo 30 yd run (Coons kick) 6:27 (31-31)
S - FG Bowlin 36 yds 2:20 (31-34)
M - Duncan 57 yd run (Coons kick) 1:59 (38-34)
Team Statistics: First Downs: Mt. SAC 21 (11 rush, 7 pass, 3 penalty), Saddleback 31 (7 rush, 20 pass, 4 penalty)
Rushes-Yds: Mt. SAC 39-199, Saddleback 42-132
Passing Yds: Mt. SAC 155, Saddleback 314
Comp-Att-Int: Mt. SAC 17-37-3, Saddleback 36-60-0
Return Yds: Mt. SAC 246, Saddleback 157
Sacks-Yds: Mt. SAC 7-35, Saddleback 6-35
Fumbles-Lost: Mt. SAC 2-1, Saddleback 1-1
Penalties-Yds: Mt. SAC 11-115, Saddleback 11-110
Time of Possession: Mt. SAC 27:30, Saddleback 32:30
Rushing: M 20-Bobo 9-72, 32-Botello 14-69, 6-Duncan 1-57, 9-Magalei 4-16, 8-Viramontes 1-0, 11-Deen 9-(-14), team 1-(-1); S 2-Poole 9-53, 4-Woodland 5-37, 24-Cade 9-28, 7-Edwards-Ford 3-18, 11-Gomez 14-1, 20-Dickerson 2-(-5)
Passing: M 11-Deen 17-37-3-155, 2 TDs; S 11-Gomez 36-60-0-314, 1 TD
Receiving: M 1-Agwuenu 6-81, 6-Duncan 3-23, 18-Dotson 2-14, 32-Botello 2-10, 88-Rhodes 1-10, 3-Lomu 1-6, 16-Gage 1-6, 80-Pickett 1-5; S 6-Closs 8-96, 4-Woodland 8-54, 7-Edwards-Ford 8-54, 1-T.Johnson 4-43, 2-Poole 4-25, 24-Cade 2-26, 85-Schick 1-8, 89-Wills 1-8
Interceptions-Ret Yds: M none; S 29-Yahyavi 2-11, 40-K.Smith 1-3
Fumble Rec-Ret Yds: M 21-Williams 1-16; S 21-Torsy 1-0
Sacks-Yds: M 93-Leota 2-10, 96-Mataele 1-8, 43-Gener 1-7, 31-Brandon 1-4, 91-Aholelei 1-4, 54-Tauteoli 1-2; S 26-Wilson 1-10, 47-Hong 1-8, 55-Alvarado 1-6, 42-Nelton 1-4, 58-Chrinos 1-4, 90-Lindeman 1-3
Punters: M 49-Colby 6-47.2 avg; S 95-Rowland 4-40.0 avg, 11-Gomez 1-45
Kick Returns: M 21-Williams 5-136, 14-Martin 2-74, 16-Gage 1-15; S 7-Edwards-Ford 3-66, 24-Cade 3-66
Punt Returns: M 16-Gage 1-3, 3-Lomu 2-0; S 4-Woodland 2-11
Return of Blocked FG: M 45-Thorpe 1-2; S none
Missed FG: M none; S 15-Bowlin 28 yds (blocked)
Notes: WOW what a game! Saddleback entered 7-0, 2-0 in conference, #1 in South and #6 in the nation; Mt. SAC entered 6-1, 2-0 in conference, #3 in South and #8 in the nation. Saddleback's 1st TD came after Smith's interception. Saddlback's 1st FG came after Torsey recoverd a Gage fumble on a punt return (forced by Wilson). Brandon pressured Gomez into the intentional grounding penalty in the end zone for the safety. Saddleback's last TD came after Yahyavi's 2nd interception. Saddleback got the ball back one last time with 1:59 left but only made it to the Mt. SAC 37 before turning the ball over on downs. Saddleback was the last team to beat Mt. SAC in a National Division game (9/26/09); Mt. SAC's conference win steak is now 14.