Saddleback College’s football team had three opportunities to win and finally took advantage of the last one Saturday afternoon to defeat Orange Coast, 19-17, in a Mission Conference game in front of about 2,000 at OCC.
Saddleback (5-1 overall, 4-1 in conference play) scored the winning touchdown on a 4-yard run by quarterback Scott Stark with 8:42 left to play.
OCC had trailed, 13-10, at halftime, but Tyler Riddell returned the second-half kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown to put the Pirates ahead, 17-13.
Riddell also had kickoff returns of 21 and 63 yards in the game. He had returned another kickoff 89 yards for a score this season and is averaging 63 yards in 5 returns. Riddell, a sophomore from Costa Mesa High School, missed three games because of a broken hand.
Saddleback’s first opportunity to take the lead Saturday came when Stark, who replaced Lance Stewart to start the second half in a planned substitution, completed what looked like a 76-yard touchdown pass to Scott Miller late in the third quarter. But OCC defensive backs Gunnar Wolfe and Carlos Barfield stripped the ball away at the 3.
The ball rolled into the end zone and was recovered by Wolfe for a touchback. Miller had an outstanding afternoon, setting a Saddleback single-game record for reception yardage with 232 in 10 catches.
The Gauchos’ second chance came when there was a mix-up in the OCC backfield. Brian George and quarterback Mike Crowe fumbled a hand-off and Saddleback recovered the ball at midfield.
But Wolfe intercepted Stark’s pass at the OCC 30 on the next play.
OCC then failed to get a first down and had to punt. George’s punt went 64 yards into the end zone and Saddleback started on its 20 with 12:12 left in the game.
OCC (3-3, 2-3) appeared to have stopped the drive on a third-down sack at midfield, but the ball got loose from Stark. Saddleback center Ben Morgon recovered and was tackled, but OCC was called for a late hit. Saddleback had a first down at the OCC 32 instead of a fourth down at the OCC 47.
Stark completed passes to Miller for 10 and 12 yards and eventually got the ball to the 4. Stark then rolled left on second-down and goal and dove into the corner of the end zone for the winning score. The extra point was blocked.
OCC never got the ball past midfield in the fourth quarter as Saddleback’s defense, led by Todd Johnson (4 sacks), was impressive.
Miller figured in Saddleback’s two first-half scores. He tipped, then caught, a pass from Stewart and went 44 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter to give Saddleback a 13-3 lead. He also caught a 49-yard pass from Stewart at the OCC 2 to set up Saddleback’s first touchdown.
Stewart was 8 of 12 for 126 yards in the first half. Stark was 10 of 17 for 126 in the second.
OCC scored in the first quarter on a 21-yard field goal by Kevin McKelvie and in the second on a 35-yard pass from Crowe to Ken Griggs. Griggs had 7 catches for 108 yards.