There wasn’t a mention of it on a sign anywhere or a word spoken about it before or during the game.
And Saddleback Coach Ken Swearingen really didn’t want to talk much about it afterward, but he became the winningest community college coach when the Gauchos beat Santa Monica, 37-7, in the season opener for both teams Saturday at Mission Viejo.
It was victory No. 242 for Swearingen, in his 32nd season. His overall mark is 242-68-6. Hal Sherbeck was 241-71-8 in 31 seasons at Fullerton before retiring after the 1991 season.
“What I’m most happy about is the fact that we played better than I anticipated on offense,” Swearingen said. “Now that (the record) is out of the way, we can get on to what’s important. We had all summer to think about past teams and players.”
Swearingen tied the mark last season when Saddleback beat City College of San Francisco, 24-12, in the Simple Green Orange County Bowl. The victory gave Saddleback an 11-0 season and the second J.C. Grid-Wire national championship of Swearingen’s career. The Gauchos also won the title in 1985.
Only five starters returned to Saddleback this season, prompting many questions about the strength of the Gauchos.
Saddleback’s answer came in the first half in the form of a dominating ground attack. Allan Perlas, Rob Hobbs and Reggie Carter combined for 122 yards in the first half and 168 overall.
Perlas, who had a team-high 72 yards, and Carter, who had 56, scored touchdowns to give the Gauchos a 17-6 halftime lead. Hobbs had 40 yards in the game.
After using a half to gain his confidence, Saddleback quarterback Mike Fouts was five of seven for 85 yards in the second half with three touchdown passes, all to sophomore wide receiver Mark McDonough. The scoring catches covered 25, 23 and 19 yards. Fouts was nine of 14 for 140 yards and an interception in the game.
The victory was the 20th in a row for Saddleback, which has won 22 of its last 23 games. It was also the 15th consecutive victory at home.
The Gauchos’ Devon Higgins kicked four extra points to give him 45 in a row, tying the Saddleback record set by Doug Roberson (1991-92).
In other nonconference games:
Rancho Santiago 28, Cerritos 28--Kicker Chad Weaver missed a 55-yard field-goal attempt for Cerritos as time expired at Cerritos College. Rancho Santiago also had a chance to win, but Brian Nuric missed a 34-yard try with 14 seconds left. Rancho Santiago quarterback Gabe Garcia led the Dons, rushing for two touchdowns and throwing for two.
Mt. San Antonio 32, Orange Coast 20--Orange Coast racked up 384 yards in total offense but could not overcome 125 yards in penalties, two fumbles, a blocked punt and an interception. Mt. San Antonio capitalized with 17 points off the Orange Coast miscues. Mt. San Antonio quarterback Cody Smith, formerly at Pacific, completed 21 of 33 passes for 228 yards and two touchdowns.