It will mark the fourth bowl appearance in four years for the Cougars since football returned to Canyons in 1998. It also is the second year in a row in which they will serve as host of the WSC Bowl.
The Cougars, who are ranked No. 5 in Southern California by the 2001 California Community College Football Poll, No. 6 in the state by the J.C. Athletic Bureau and No. 14 in the nation by the J.C. Grid-Wire, will be seeking their first bowl victory. They are 0-3 since football returned, including a 24-20 loss to Allan Hancock in the WSC Bowl last year, and 0-5-1 in the program¹s 16-year history.
The Cougars increased their winning streak to nine games with a come-from-behind 19-16 victory last Saturday over Compton in their regular-season finale at Compton. The victory gave them their first outright championship in the WSC Pacific Division with a perfect 7-0 record and improved their overall record to 9-1.
Among the leaders for the Cougars is freshman quarterback Kyle Bauer, who has completed 73 of 155 passes for 1,164 yards and 14 touchdowns. They have five players with 21 or more receptions led by sophomore wide receiver Chris Chestnut with 24 catches for 338 yards and a touchdown. They also have three running backs who have combined for 1,451 yards and 21 touchdowns. The top rusher has been freshman J.J. Arrington with 549 yards and 10 touchdowns in 96 carries. In addition, sophomore wide receiver Cedric Thompson has returned three punts and one kickoff for touchdowns this season and also has 21 catches for 179 yards and two touchdowns.
Saddleback, which is ranked No. 7 in Southern California, No. 14 in the state and No. 24 in the nation, finished second behind powerful Palomar in the Mission Conference Central Division with a 7-3 overall record. The Gauchos have a storied 34-year football history.
The Gauchos, coached by Mark McElroy, will be making their 16th bowl appearance in the past 25 years and the 21st in the college¹s history. It will be Saddleback¹s first bowl appearance since 1996, when the Gauchos defeated Sacramento City College, 37-28, in the Capital Shrine Bowl to earn the mythical national championship title by the JC Athletic Bureau and USA Today. They have won three national championships.
Saddleback has been led by sophomore quarterback Jason Whieldon, who has made a verbal commitment to attend the University of Hawaii next year. He has completed an impressive 182 of 304 passes for 2,333 yards and 16 touchdowns. His favorite target is sophomore wide receiver Chris Bernard, who has 52 catches for 827 yards and seven touchdowns. There is also freshman running back Darren Shorter, who has rushed for 952 yards and 13 touchdowns in 168 carries and caught 28 passes for 369 yards and three touchdowns.
It will be the first meeting between the teams. Tickets are $6 for adults and $3 for children age 12 and younger, seniors and students with identification.