The 6-5 sophomore completed 31 of 45 passes without an interception, and both Eric Walker and Aiona Key topped 100 receiving yards as the Mounties romped to a most impressive victory.
The game matched two of the top teams in the state, and yet Mt. SAC was superior in nearly every facet of the game. Craft was nearly flawless passing the ball. The Mt. SAC defense forced Saddleback to punt on eight consecutive possessions at one point at the Mounties took a 27-point lead. And special teams provided the play that swung the momentum in Mt. SAC’s favor when Mike Williams blocked a punt and recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown in the second quarter to break a 14-14 tie.
Craft staked the Mounties to an early 14-0 lead on a pair of touchdown passes in the first quarter. A 24-yard toss to Walker capped a 6-play drive and put the Mounties ahead, 7-0, just 2:26 into the game after taking the opening kickoff. And later in the quarter, after a flurry of turnovers (two fumbles and an interception in the space of four plays), Craft threw a 13-yard scoring pass to Key two plays after Darrell Wilson’s interception and 77-yard return.
But Saddleback fought back from that deficit, tying the game early in the second quarter. First, Micah Abreu-Laybon broke a couple of tackles at the line and burst through the Mountie defense for a 41-yard touchdown run with 4:32 left in the first quarter to make it 14-7. Then, after Mt. SAC’s Jeremy Gener missed a 42-yard field goal attempt, Sebastian Trujillo threw three long passes to get Saddleback down the field and tie the game. A 41-yard pass to Jay Wisner got the drive started, a 23-yard toss to Maurice Clark got the Gauchos close and a 16-yard scoring toss to Clark evened the game with 12:14 left in the half.
By the time Saddleback scored again, the game would be out of reach. After allowing the tying touchdown, Mt. SAC’s defense forced the Gauchos to punt each time they got the ball until midway through the fourth quarter.
And on one of those punts, the course of the game changed. With the game still tied at 14, Saddleback faced a 4th down at its own 18. Jon Knack dropped back to punt, but he never got the chance as Mike Williams burst through the middle of the line, blocked the kick, and fell on the ball in the back of the end zone for a touchdown to put Mt. SAC ahead, 21-14, with 3:53 left in the half.
After another Saddleback punt, Mt. SAC added a field goal when Gener connected from 32 yards out with one second left before halftime. The Mounties got the ball at their own 20 with 1:41 left, but that proved to be enough time for Craft to get his team in scoring position. A 20-yard pass to Christian Taylor got the ball into Gaucho territory, and a 29-yard pass to Key moved the Mounties into field goal range, allowing Gener to make it 24-14 at the break.
Neither team scored in the third quarter until Gener booted another field goal with 5:16 left in the period. The Mt. SAC defense - helped by a virtual plague of false start penalties on the Gaucho offense - continued to force punts and keep the Mounties in the lead. Then midway through the third quarter, Craft’s 34-yard pass to Key got Mt. SAC close enough for Gener to add the field goal to make it 27-14.
After another punt, Mt. SAC put the game away with a pair of touchdowns just over four minutes apart. First, Craft threw a 22-yard scoring pass to Walker to cap a quick, two-play drive that started at the Gaucho 38 following a short punt and a 13-yard return by Dominique Gaisie to the Saddleback 38. Then, after another Saddleback punt, Mt. SAC put together a 10-play drive that ended with a 2-yard scoring run by Lancer Iosefa that made it 41-14 with 13:51 left in the game.
Saddleback got a pair of touchdowns in the final minutes, but never threatened the Mounties. Trujillo scored on a 1-yard run with 7:53 left just four plays after Justin Fesili recovered a Mt. SAC fumble and returned it to the Mountie 17. Abreu-Laybon later scored on a 4-yard run with 2:16 left to close out the scoring. Saddleback got the ball back one last time in the final minute but Wilson’s second interception of the game ended that final threat.
For Mt. SAC, Craft was magnificent, and he distributed the ball among a great many receivers. Walker led all receivers with 8 catches for 110 yards and 2 touchdowns. Key added 6 catches for 101 yards and a score. Walker had 6 catches for 63 yards and Matt Austin, who led the team in receptions entering the game, had 5 catches for 52 yards. All that more than compensated for an anemic rushing attack; punter Ricky Parkhouse gained 13 yards on a fake punt play in the first quarter and, with that total, finished as Mt. SAC’s leading rusher.
The defense was equally impressive, led by Wilson and defensive end Eugene Germany, who had two of the Mounties’ five sacks. Brandon Johnson had an interception and a fumble recovery. Bernard Afutiti, Tevita Hautau and Hebron Fangupo also had sacks for Mt. SAC.
For Saddleback, Trujillo finished 20 of 40 passing for 220 yards, one TD and three interceptions. Clark led Gaucho receivers with 9 catches for 97 yards and a TD. Abreu-Laybon had a game-high 64 yards rushing on 8 carries, including a pair of TDs. Cheyne Verhagen had 62 yards on 9 carries. Linebacker Ben Terry led the defense, registering both of Saddleback’s quarterback sacks and recovering a fumble.
With the win, Mt. SAC wins the Mission Conference’s National Division and figures to host a playoff game next Saturday. Saddleback finishes the regular season 7-2 and is expected to be on the road for a first-round game next week.
Mt. San Antonio Mounties 41, Saddleback Gauchos 28
Saturday, November 10, 2007 - 6 pm - Hilmer Lodge Stadium - Walnut
Mission Conference - National Division
M - Walker 24 yd pass from Craft (Gener kick) 12:34 (7-0)
M - Key 13 yd pass from Craft (Gener kick) 6:16 (14-0)
S - Abreu-Laybon 41 yd run (Carr kick) 4:32 (14-7)
S - Clark 16 yd pass from Trujillo (Carr kick) 12:14 (14-14)
M - M.Williams recovered blocked punt in end zone (Gener kick) 3:53 (21-14)
M - FG Gener 32 yds 0:01 (24-14)
M - FG Gener 30 yds 5:16 (27-14)
M - Walker 22 yd pass from Craft (Gener kick) 2:57 (34-14)
M - Iosefa 2 yd run (Gener kick) 13:51 (41-14)
S - Trujillo 1 yd run (Carr kick) 7:53 (41-21)
S - Abreu-Laybon 4 yd run (Carr kick) 2:16 (41-28)
First Downs: Mt. SAC 21 (3 rush, 17 pass, 1 penalty), Saddleback 16 (4 rush, 10 pass, 2 penalty)
Rushes-Yds: Mt. SAC 36-21, Saddleback 25-93
Passing Yds: Mt. SAC 386, Saddleback 220
Comp-Att-Int: Mt. SAC 31-45-0, Saddleback 20-40-3
Return Yds: Mt. SAC 225, Saddleback 68
Sacks-Yds: Mt. SAC 5-37, Saddleback 2-25
Fumbles-Lost: Mt. SAC 3-2, Saddleback 1-1
Penalties-Yds: Mt. SAC 16-118, Saddleback 12-89
Time of Possession: Mt. SAC 33:17, Saddleback 26:43
Rushing: Mt. SAC 17-Parkhouse 1-13, 36-C.Williams 8-12, 28-Iosefa 10-3, 2-Craft 4-(-3), 32-Woods 12-(-3), team 1-(-1); Saddleback 36-Abreu-Laybon 8-64, 2-Verhagen 9-62, 19-Spellman-Smith 1-(-4), 12-Trujillo 7-(-29)
Passing: Mt. SAC 2-K.Craft 31-45-0-386, 3 TDs; Saddleback 12-Trujillo 20-40-3-220, 1 TD
Receiving: Mt. SAC 10-Walker 8-110, 11-Key 6-101, 5-Thomas 6-63, 6-Austin 5-52, 32-Woods 3-28, 15-Taylor 1-20, 88-Carrillo 1-11, 28-Iosefa 1-1; Saddleback 3-Clark 9-97, 14-Tinoco 4-29, 36-Abreu-Laybon 2-44, 83-Hasner 2-38, 1-Hawthorne 1-9, 21-Brown 1-5, 2-Verhagen 1-(-2)
Interceptions-Ret Yds: Mt. SAC 23-Wilson 2-105, 9-Johnson 1-28
Fumble Rec-Ret Yds: Mt. SAC 9-Johnson 1-0; Saddleback 99-Fesili 1-8, 55-Terry 1-0
Sacks-Yds: Mt. SAC 96-Germany 2-13, 20-Afutiti 1-11, 47-Hautau 1-9, 99-Fangupo 1-4;
Saddleback 55-Terry 2-25
Punters: Mt. SAC 17-Parkhouse 5-39.8 avg; Saddleback 48-Knack 8-43.9 avg + 1 blk
Kick Returns: Mt. SAC 10-Walker 2-29, 5-Thomas 1-22; Saddleback 24-Brown 3-30, 36-Abreu-Laybon 2-13
Punt Returns: Mt. SAC 25-Gaisie 3-23, 3-M.Williams 1-18; Saddleback 4-Russo 2-17
Missed FG: Mt. SAC 33-Gener 42 yds (wide left), 47 yds (wide left)