The Saddleback football team improved to 2-0 on the season with a 48-24 win against Ventura College in the home-opener on Saturday night at Mission Viejo High School. Gaucho quarterback Chance Nolan threw five touchdown passes in the win.
The game was billed as one of the bigger games in Southern California, with both squads coming into the game ranked in the top-10 in the country by JCGridiron.com. It turned out to be a one-sided affair, with the No. 6 Gauchos streaking past the No. 10 Pirates. Saddleback finished with 717 yards of total offense and 499 yards passing, both of which were program records.
Saddleback scored first when Nolan found Elijah Jefferson along the sidelines The sophomore from local JSerra High School took the ball and raced 62 yards for the opening score of the game at the 10:13 mark of the opening quarter. Nolan then lofted a pass over the defensive front to Matthew Poching for a 2-point conversion and the Gauchos had an 8-0 lead.
Ventura responded quickly, driving down the field and scoring on a 33-yard pass play to cut the lead to 8-7 with 8:35 remaining in the quarter. Saddleback wasted no time in answering the Pirates as Nolan then found Cole Harrity wide open down field for a 60-yard score and a 15-8 lead with 7:21 left in the opening quarter.
Things went from bad to worse for Ventura when Nolan connected with Liam Eldridge, who was completely uncovered down the left side of the field for a 77-yard score. The play gave the Gauchos a 22-7 lead with 1:54 remaining in the first quarter. Following a three-and-out from the defense, Ventura then snapped the ball over the head of the punter, who was tackled in the end zone for a safety and a 24-7 lead with 1:01 remaining on the clock.
Saddleback tacked on another three points when Matthew Freem connected on a 40-yard field goal at the 14:32 mark of the second frame as Saddleback opened up a 27-7 lead to start the second quarter. Things then settled down for the rest of the half as the Gauchos carried a 27-10 lead into the locker room.
The game got a bit sloppy in the second half as both teams were whistled for a number of penalties over the first 10 minutes of the third quarter. The Gauchos blew the game open when Nolan found Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda for a 12-yard touchdown strike with 4:26 remaining in the quarter and a 34-10 lead.
The Saddleback defense then got tough, forcing Ventura to punt and giving the ball back to the offense. The Gauchos wasted no time as Shawn Poma had a dazzling 54-yard touchdown run and Saddleback grabbed its biggest lead of the game at 41-10 with 2:51 remaining in the third quarter.
Nolan capped off the Saddleback scoring when he tossed his fifth touchdown of the game, finding Garcia-Castaneda who raced 68 yards for a 48-17 lead with 9:17 remaining in the contest.
Nolan finished the game 15-of-23 for 423 yards and five touchdown passes. He also led the Gauchos with 82 yards rushing on 15 attempts, giving him 505 yards of total offense in the game. The 505 yards of total offense was just shy of a record 540 set by Johnny Stanton in 2015 against El Camino College. When Nolan wasn't carving up the Ventura defense, Devan Freedland came on to the field to do his own damage. Freedland finished 9-of-13 for another 76 yards, giving the Gauchos 495 yards through the air. The 495 yards eclipsed a previous record of 487 yards set against Victor Valley College in 2011. The Saddleback duo is now 55-for-76 (72.4%) on the season through two games, with 896 yards passing and nine touchdowns.
Saddleback finished with two receivers breaking the 100-yard mark on Saturday as both Garcia-Castaneda and Harrity had over 100 yards receiving. Garcia-Castaneda led the Gauchos with six catches for 149 yards and two scores while Harrity had three receptions for 104 yards and a touchdown.
In total, Saddleback finished with 717 yards of total offense, eclipsing the old record of 679 against El Camino College in 2016.
Lost in all the offensive madness was a pretty solid performance on defense. The Gaucho defenders were beaten on a couple of big plays, but managed to hold one of the better offenses in the state to 24 points, 14 of which came on two plays. Tyriek Bell finished with a team-high 11 tackles as Saddleback finished with six tackles behind the line-of-scrimmage. The Gauchos put a lot of pressure on Ventura quarterbacks, finishing with six quarterback hurries (Connor Smith, 2). Saddleback also had a blocked kick when Bobby Blandino sprinted in off the edge on a Ventura field goal attempt and thwarted a Pirate scoring chance with a blocked field goal. Tristan West led the Gauchos with three pass break-ups on the night.
Saddleback is now 2-0 on the season and travels to Pasadena City College (2-0) for a game next Saturday. Pasadena City has opened the season with wins against College of the Desert (22-13) and Glendale College (35-7). The Gauchos and Lancers are scheduled to start at 6:00 PM in Pasadena.