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Serra Gets the Jump on Saddleback

Times Staff Writer

Saddleback High School just couldn’t guess right in its shell game against Serra Friday night.

Serra, with four backs in the backfield and an option offense, spread the football around and left Saddleback guessing which back had the football.

The Roadrunners guessed wrong-- a lot.

As it turned out, fullback Dennis Gerard (21 carries, 174 yards and two touchdowns) and quarterback Fred Safford (21 carries, 97 yards) were harboring the football most of the night as Serra defeated Saddleback, 22-7, in front of 500 at Santa Ana Stadium.

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Figuring out who had the ball wasn’t the real problem, Saddleback Coach Jerry Witte said. “We knew who had the ball. We just couldn’t figure out a way to tackle them. Their linemen were doing a good job and (Gerard) was doing a great job. When he wants to run hard, he runs hard. We couldn’t stop him.”

Nor could Saddleback (1-3) seem to get its offense started, thanks in part to pressure from linebacker Alex Marcelin and the Serra blitz, and, in part, to poor execution. Saddleback gained 188 yards but five turnovers and dropped passes stalled Roadrunner drives until it got a little bit of help from Serra late in the fourth quarter.

With Saddleback trailing, 14-0, Jose Arceo recovered a Safford fumble at the Serra 37 and Paul Delgado eventually hooked up with Robert Reyes for 31 yards and a touchdown to avoid a shutout.

Serra (4-0) showed it owned the running game early, marching 92 yards in eight plays and scoring in less than three minutes in the first series of the game. A 34-yard burst by Lamont Daniel advanced the ball to the Saddleback six, setting up Gerard’s six-yard scamper and Serra led, 7-0.

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Saddleback mounted a drive from its 29 to Serra’s 45 with the help of a 28-yard completion from Delgado to Juan Acuna (three catches, 26 yards). But Serra’s Clayton Lopez intercepted Delgado’s pass and Serra scored off the turnover on a 34-yard run by Jerald Henry.

The Cavaliers had 366 yards, all on the ground.

“They had big holes and great backs,” Witte said. “When you get that combination, I’m surprised they didn’t score more.”

Serra would have scored more if it had a reliable field-goal kicker.

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Serra turned the ball over on downs rather than attempting a field goal from the Saddleback 12 in the second quarter after a fumble recovery.

In the second half, on fourth and nine with the ball on Saddleback’s 14, Alex Rico intercepted a pass by Safford.


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