Johnny Stanton passed for 158 yards, rushed for 129 yards and accounted for three touchdowns, leading Saddleback to a 46-32 win over visiting Golden West, thereby clinching the National Division Southern Conference championship for the Gauchos Saturday evening.
Stanton scored the first two touchdowns of the game as Saddleback (8-2, 6-0) built a 29-7 second-quarter lead. But not only did Golden West rally to cut the deficit to just four points in the third quarter, the Rustlers came within about a yard of tying the score before fumbling into the end zone. Then Saddleback went on an 80-yard scoring drive, and Golden West never had the chance to tie it up again.
To start the game, Saddleback could hardly have been more impressive. After the defense forced a three-and-out, the offense needed just two plays to take a lead. One play after Jojo Binda broke free for a 52-yard run, Stanton scored on a keeper. Then on the conversion, the Gauchos used a bit of trickery to get two points when backup quarterback Jacob Gibson threw to erstwhile linebacker Landon Cook. Then after another three-and-out, the Gauchos scored again on a 7-play drive, with Stanton again carrying the ball over the line. That made it 15-0 just 6:01 into the game.
Golden West (8-2, 6-2) got on the board on its next possession, sparked by a 46-yard kickoff return by Jordan Veasy. Trevin Kalunanui scored on a short run to cut the deficit to 15-7. But Sadddleback answered with an 11-play drive, pushing its lead back to 15 points when Matt Brock scored on a 9-yard run early in the second quarter. Then after Candido Corporan intercepted a pass by Rustler quarterback Nick Sternard, the Gauchos marched 70 yards in 6 plays, extending their lead to 29-7 after a 20-yard touchdown run by Binda with 9:37 left in the first half.
Golden West cut the halftime deficit to 19 points when Humberto Maciel made a 36-yard field goal on the final play of the first half. But the Rustlers really got in the game when Maciel pooched the second half kickoff and, just after Binda caught the ball for Saddleback, he was flattened by Kokou Akengue on coverage. Golden West recovered the ball, and four plays later Kahunanui scored on a 7-yard run. Then on the conversion, starting tight end Josh Smith lined up at quarterback and tossed the ball over the line to a waiting Alex Alagata for the two-point conversion, making it 29-18 and swinging the momentum in Golden West's favor.
Then just 29 seconds later, Golden West got the ball again when Saddleback's Michael Neal fumbled and Damon Roberts recovered for the Rustlers at the Gaucho 28. Two plays later, Sternard threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Quest Truxton to bring Golden West within four points at 29-25 just 2:52 into the second half.
Saddleback took the momentum back moments later when Marvin Marshall took the ensuing kickoff at his 4 yard-line and returned it 96 yards for a touchdown. But Golden West got a 54-yard kickoff return from Truxton, and scored less than a minute later when Sternard threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to Veasy, making it 36-32 with 10:55 left in the third quarter.
Saddleback got a 47-yard field goal from Aaron Ball to push its lead to seven points, but the Golden West drove deep into Gaucho territory, reaching the 6 yard-line. Then on the next play, Johnny Hills took the handoff and went off left tackle and seemed headed for the end zone, only to lose the ball at about the 1. Saddleback – either Darryl Wyrick or Marcus Meredith – recovered the ball in the end zone.
And Golden West never got that close to tying the game again. On Saddleback's possession, the Gauchos drove just across midfield when Stanton eluded a heavy rush – he was nearly sacked by Rogers – and threw 47-yard touchdown pass to Cody White. That made it 46-32 less than a minute into the fourth quarter, and neither team scored again. Golden West turned the ball over on downs the final time at the Saddleback 3 after nearly stealing a touchdown with a clever trick play (the quarterback walked down the line yelling as the ball was snapped to the tailback, who pitched the ball to flanker Veasy for a pass; the Gauchos didn't bite, the receiver was covered and the pass fell incomplete) with 3:34 left, and the Gauchos ran out the clock.
For Saddleback, Stanton completed 17 of 23 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown, and he also carried the ball 19 times for a game-high 129 yards and two touchdowns. Binda also topped the 100-yard mark with 102 yards and a touchdown on 7 carries. And Marshall had the 94-yard kickoff return.
For Golden West, surprise starter Sternard was impressive, completing 17 of 32 passes for 235 yards, two touchdowns and one interception as he made his first start of the season. Truxton had a huge night with 8 catches for 124 yards and a touchdown, and he also returned 5 kickoffs for 133 yards. Hills had a very strong game despite the fumble with a team-high 96 yards rushing on 22 carries.
The win clinches the National-South for Saddleback, ensuring the Gauchos a spot on the SoCal playoffs. Golden West suffers its second straight loss but will in all likelihood participate in a non-playoff bowl game next weekend.
Saddleback Gauchos 46, Golden West Rustlers 32
Saturday, November 14, 2015 – 6 pm – Saddleback College, Mission Viejo
National Division – South Conference
S – Stanton 1 yd run (Cook pass from Gibson) 12:50 (8-0)
S – Stanton 2 yd run (Ball kick) 8:59 (15-0)
GW – Kahunanui 2 yd run (Maciel kick) 2:59 (15-7)
S – Brock 9 yd run (Ball kick) 13:31 (22-7)
S – Binda 20 yd run (Ball kick) 9:37 (29-7)
GW – FG Maciel 36 yds 0:00 (29-10)
GW – Kahunanui 7 yd run (Alagata pass from J.Smith) 13:22 (29-18)
GW – Truxton 29 yd pass from Sternard (Maciel kick) 12:08 (29-25)
S – Marshall 94 yd kickoff return (Ball kick) 11:54 (36-25)
GW – Veasy 36 yd pass from Sternard (Maciel kick) 10:55 (36-32)
S – FG Ball 47 yds 8:30 (39-32)
S – White 47 yd pass from Stanton (Ball kick) 14:09 (46-32)
First Downs: Saddleback 22 (16 rush, 6 pass), Golden West 20 (6 rush, 13 pass, 1 penalty)
Rushes-Yds: Saddleback 41-301, Golden West 42-146
Passing Yds: Saddleback 158, Golden West 235
Comp-Att-Int: Saddleback 17-23-0, Golden West 17-33-1
Return Yds: Saddleback 119, Golden West 186
Sacks-Yds: Saddleback 2-4, Golden West 0-0
Fumbles-Lost: Saddleback 3-2, Golden West 2-1
Penalties-Yds: Saddleback 11-90, Golden West 5-60
Time of Possession: Saddleback 25:48, Golden West 34:12
Rushing: S 4-Johnny Stanton 19-129, 20-Jojo Binda 7-102, 5-Neal 7-37, 22-Marshall 2-17, 11-Davis 1-9, 1-Brock 4-8; GW 25-Hills 22-96, 13-Sternard 8-20, 16-Akengue 4-14, 27-Kahunanui 5-10, 12-J.Smith 2-5, 1-Truxton 1-1
Passing: S 4-Stanton 17-23-0-158, 1 TD; GW 13-Nick Sternard 17-32-1-235, 2 TDs; 8-Veasy 0-1-0-0
Receiving: S 11-Davis 5-12, 17-Collins 4-53, 88-White 3-63, 3-Rodgers 2-10, 44-Amaro 1-8, 5-Neal 1-6, 15-Washington 1-6; GW 1-Quest Truxton 8-124, 8-Veasy 5-71, 12-J.Smith 3-37, 42-Alagata 1-3
Interceptions-Ret Yds: S 46-Corporan 1-5; GW none
Sacks: S 45-Hickey, 57-Holsinger ½, 93-Fano ½; GW none
Punters: S 91-Manning 3-39.3 avg; GW 30-Maciel 5-35.2 avg
Kick Returns: S 22-Marvin Marshall 2-110, 20-Binda 1-0; GW 1-Truxton 5-133, 8-Veasy 1-46, 35-Flaseu 1-6
Punt Returns: S 3-Rodgers 2-4; GW 1-Truxton 1-1
Missed FG: none
Notes: Saddleback entered ranked #3 in SoCal National and improves to 8-2 overall and 6-0 in conference, clinching the conference championship with this win. Golden West entered ranked #4 and falls to 8-2 overall and 4-2 in conference. Saddleback scored the first 4 times it had the ball, and the 2-point conversion came on a trick play. Golden West got back into the game on two fumbles, the first on a pooch kick (forced by Akengue) and the second that was recovered by 18-Roberts. They both set up GW touchdowns. The 2-point conversion came on a pass by Wildcat QB Smith. Golden West was a yard from tying the game but Hills fumbled into the end zone and Saddleback recovered with 2:47 left in the 3rd quarter. Golden West had two more chances after Saddleback's last TD but failed to score, turning the ball over on downs with 3:34 left.