Saddleback (3-3), which entered the game ranked 10th in the National Division, never trailed in the game, and pulled away in the second and third quarters when Bautista threw his second and third touchdown passes of the game. Overall the Gaucho offense generated 626 yards on the night and 34 first downs, more than enough to overcome three first-half fumbles.
For a quarter, Canyons (2-4) kept pace, mainly due to the strong play of quarterback Tony Dawson. Saddleback took the opening kickoff and drove 96 yards in 11 plays to take a 7-0 lead on Bautista's first touchdown pass, a 7-yard toss to Dominic Collins. But Dawson answered with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Jackson French midway through the quarter, though a missed extra point kept the Gauchos in front, 7-6.
Saddleback scored on its next drive when wildcat quarterback Drake Martinez carried the ball the final 2 yards of a 77-play drive. The Gaucho defense then forced a Canyons punt, but when return man Kieran Yancy fumbled, Triston Brown recovered for the Cougars at the Gaucho 18. Moments later Dawson threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Joshua Fuglsang to make it 14-13.
The teams exchanged punts early in the second quarter, but Saddleback got the better of the exchange when Martinez - now an outside rusher on the punt defense - partially blocked Andrew Jimenez' punt, giving Saddleback the ball at the Cougar 26. That led to a 39-yard field goal by Erik Harris that pushed Saddleback's lead to 17-13.
Late in the first half, another blocked kick led to another Saddleback score. Canyons got the ball at the Gaucho 41 when Will Pretty recovered a fumble with 4:16 left in the half. Four plays later the Cougars faced a 4th down at the Gaucho 20 and tried a field goal, but P.J. Ward blocked Eric Kreitz' kick, giving Saddleback the ball at its own 34. Then the Gaucho offense drove 66 yards in just over a minute, pushing the lead to 24-13 when Bautista threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Forrest Dunivin with 37.5 seconds left in the first half.
The third quarter began with Saddleback allowing just one first down before forcing a Canyons punt, and the Gaucho offense then drove 77 yards in 12 plays to increase the lead to 30-13 when Bautista threw his third touchdown pass of the game, a 4-yard toss to Collins.
Then later in the quarter Langdon Lapp intercepted a Dawson pass, giving the Gauchos the ball near midfield. That led to another 12-play drive that ended with Michael Neal scoring from one yard out to push Saddleback's lead to 37-13 at the end of the third quarter.
Canyons got a little closer in the first minute of the fourth quarter when Tim White, a state champion in track and field, caught a pass from Devon Dunn and sped into the end zone from 43 yards out to make it 37-19. But the Cougars were stymied on a 2-point conversion try, keeping it a 3-score game. And Saddleback answered with another long drive, covering 83 yards in 11 play to push the lead to 44-19 after receiver R.J. Dedrick took a pitch in the backfield and scored from 18 yards out with exactly 10 minutes left.
All that remained was simply the most spectacular play of the game, courtesy of COC's Tim White. On the ensuing kickoff, White started from about his 10 yard-line but had to retreat into the end zone to catch the ball. And he did, making a perfect over-the-shoulder catch just in front of the goal posts. But rather than take a knee for the touchback, he spun to his right, and started running the ball out of the end zone. Around the 10 he picked up a couple of blocks and continued right up the left sideline for a truly scintillating touchdown return. College scoring rules make this officially a 100-yard return, but he covered at least 105 yards on the play.
Saddleback ran out most of the rest of the clock after receiving the ensuing kickoff, using nearly eight minutes before trying a 29-yard field goal with just over two minutes left. COC's Jacob Smith came off the edge and partially blocked the kick, which fell well short of the goal line. But by then the outcome of the game was no longer in doubt.
For Saddleback, Bautista completed 29 of 39 passes for the 332 yards, completing passes to nine different receivers. Dedrick led those receivers with 8 catches for 92 yards, while Collins had 5 catches for 90 yards and 2 touchdowns. Myron Buchanan led all rushers with 142 yards on 21 carries, and Neal had 11 carries for 51 yards and a score.
For Canyons, Dawson completed 8 of 15 passes for 62 yards and 2 touchdowns on the night. But he was absolutely spectacular in the first quarter (6-for-8 passing, 50 yards, 2 touchdowns, no interceptions plus 5 carries for 40 yards) and less than spectacular in the third quarter (2-for-7 for 12 yards, 1 interception and 3 carries for 2 yards). He alternated quarters with Dunn, who finished 4-for-15 for 102 yards and a touchdown. Earl Johnson led Cougar rushers with 64 yards on 9 carries.
And then there was Tim White, who scored Canyon's final two touchdowns, simply outrunning the opposition each time. He finished with 6 catches for 73 yards, and just ran past the coverage on his 43-yard touchdown catch. He also had 3 kickoff returns for 145 yards, including the spectacular 100-yarder. He also carried the ball 3 times for 17 yards, giving him 235 all-purpose yards. White missed several games this past month with an (undisclosed) injury, but he certainly seemed at full strength Saturday night.
Saddleback Gauchos 44
Canyons Cougars 26
Saturday, October 11, 2014 - 6 pm - Cougar Stadium, Santa Clarita
S - Collins 7 yd pass from Bautista (Harris kick) 11:29 (7-0)
C - French 13 yd pass from Dawson (kick wide right) 8:03 (7-6)
S - Martinez 2 yd run (Harris kick) 5:19 (14-6)
C - Fuglsang 4 yd pass from Dawson (Kreitz kick) 1:25 (14-13)
S - FG Harris 39 yds 12:35 (17-13)
S - Dunivin 20 yd pass from Bautista (Harris kick) 0:37.5 (24-13)
S - Collins 4 yd pass from Bautista (kick wide right) 7:52 (30-13)
S - Neal 1 yd run (Harris kick) 1:14 (37-13)
C - White 43 yd pass from Dunn (run failed) 14:05 (37-19)
S - Dedrick 16 yd run (Harris kick) 10:00 (44-19)
C - White 100 yd kickoff return (Kreitz kick) 9:45 (44-26)
First Downs: Canyons 16 (9 rush, 7 pass), Saddleback 34 (14 rush, 16 pass, 2 penalty)
Rushes-Yds: Canyons 30-156, Saddleback 55-274
Passing Yds: Canyons 164, Saddleback 352
Comp-Att-Int: Canyons 12-30-1, Saddleback 31-41-0
Return Yds: Canyons 219, Saddleback 90
Sacks-Yds: Canyons 2-14, Saddleback 1-9
Fumbles-Lost: Canyons 0-0, Saddleback 4-3
Penalties-Yds: Canyons 6-25, Saddleback 10-84
Time of Possession: Canyons 21:34, Saddleback 38:26
Rushing: C 28-E.Johnson 9-64, 10-Dawson 8-42, 31-Bar 5-26, 6-White 3-17, 3-Gaines 1-4, 2-Dunn 3-4, team 1-(-1); S 23-Buchanan 21-142, 29-Neal 11-51, 9-Yancy 5-21, 15-Bautista 11-21, 8-Dedrick 1-16, 31-Martinez 4-16, 10-Henry 1-10, 7-Berg 1-(-3)
Passing: C 10-Dawson 8-15-1-62, 2 TDs; 2-Dunn 4-15-0-102, 1 TD; S 15-Bautista 29-39-0-332, 3 TDs; 7-Berg 2-2-0-20
Receiving: C 6-White 6-73, 84-Fuglsang 3-22, 7-French 2-62, 9-Claxton 1-7; S 8-Dedrick 8-92, 17-Collins 5-90, 89-Dunivin 4-47, 84-Davis 3-42, 11-Dimry 3-17, 29-Neal 3-14, 6-Von Ahsen 2-18, 86-Zorn 1-16, 23-Buchanan 1-11, 80-Cabral 1-5
Interceptions-Ret Yds: C none; S 5-Lapp 1-15
Fum Rec-Ret Yds: C 15-T.Brown 1-0, 43-Pretty 1-0, 44-Karatepeyan 1-0
Sacks-Yds: C 35-W.Johnson 1-7, 45-Updegraft 1-7; S 93-Kelley 1-9
Punters: C 39-Jimenez 4-32.5 avg; S 94-Manning 2-38.0 avg
Kick Returns: C 6-White 3-145, 22-Lee 1-30, 4-Brooks 1-14, 45-Arteaga 1-9, 36-Payne 1-9; S 8-Dedrick 2-45, 10-Henry 2-27
Punt Returns: C 22-Lee 1-12; S 1-Ward 1-7, 9-Yancy 1-(-4)
Missed FG: C 11-Kreitz 37 yds (blocked); S 95-Harris 41 (short - partially blocked)
Notes: Both teams entered 2-3; Saddleback entered ranked #10 in the National Division. Dawson started at QB for COC and played the 1st & 3rd quarters; Dunn played the 2nd and 4th quarters. COC's 2nd TD came after T.Brown recovered a fumble on a punt return. Martinez partially blocked a punt for Saddleback; it went just 15 yds and set up the Gauchos' 3rd TD. Manning blocked the field goal attempt for Saddleback. 29-Smith partially blocked the field goal attempt for Canyons. White's kickoff return was spectacular; he made a running over-the-shoulder catch in the end zone, turned around and sped up the left sideline.