The Golden West College football team may not be having the season that it hoped for, but the Rustlers have every intention of finishing strong.
Entering the week, Golden West had two home games left on the schedule and a chance, still, to reach the .500 mark.
Rustlers coach Nick Mitchell urged his team to flush the memory of a 25-point defeat versus Saddleback away.
He told his team that it had a two-game season to play, and he wanted to see the Rustlers put together a solid performance in all three phases of the game.
Mitchell would not be disappointed.
Tahje Morant ran for a season-high 113 yards and a touchdown, and Golden West beat visiting Southwestern 27-20 in a nonconference game on Saturday afternoon.
“I just wanted to leave everything I’ve got out there,” Morant said. “I just wanted to prove to my team that even though our season [has not gone] as good as we wanted it to, that they still have a captain that is going to fight for them every play and every drive, every time we touch the field.”
Golden West improved to 4-5 overall. The Rustlers will conclude the regular season with a home game against Grossmont on Nov. 16 at 1 p.m.
“We’ve felt that this season has not turned out like any of us had dreamed that it would have turned out, but we know we have our moments,” Mitchell said. “It was just trying to put it all together, play well, still just one game at a time. We had a two-game season right there, and we really felt that we could win these last two.”
Mitchell added that the Rustlers could still have an outside shot at making a bowl game if Golden West can win next week to finish with a record of 5-5.
Nathaniel Espinoza completed nine of his 15 passes for 166 yards and two touchdowns. He added seven rushing attempts for 22 yards, including an eight-yard scramble for a key first down to help the Rustlers run out the clock in the fourth quarter.
The former Corona del Mar quarterback said he attended his alma mater’s 49-0 win over Corona Santiago to open the CIF Southern Section Division 3 playoffs on Friday night at Davidson Field.
Espinoza credited the offensive line of Adrian Montes, Tevita Tauaika, Jacob Beckler, Spencer Blake and Parker Thomas for the Rustlers’ success in moving the ball.
Southwestern (5-4) scored on its opening drive, with Joshua Owen finding DeAngelo Howard for a 13-yard touchdown.
Golden West answered less than two minutes later with a 22-yard rushing touchdown by Morant to tie the score at 7-7.
In the second quarter, Morant ripped off a 43-yard gain off right tackle, setting up Golden West at the edge of the red zone. Espinoza followed up by taking an option run up the middle for a 20-yard touchdown, giving the Rustlers the lead for the first time at 13-7.
Penalties backed up Southwestern on its next possession, but the Jaguars were able to overcome them. On a second-and-20 play, Davion Johnson went up to make a catch in traffic. He came down with Owen’s pass, and he outran the Golden West secondary for an 85-yard touchdown.
Espinoza hooked up with former Edison wide receiver David Atencio, who came free in the middle of the end zone, for a 19-yard touchdown to put Golden West back on top just before halftime.
Late in the third quarter, Espinoza connected with tight end Trevor Hobbs on a streak route for a 63-yard touchdown, upping the Rustlers’ lead to 27-13.
Golden West had a formidable pass rush against the Jaguars. Pablo Araya had two sacks, and Seau Amor added 1½ sacks.
“A lot of players went down, so me coming with the second team, you go out with a lot of hunger,” Araya said. “Me personally, I’m from Barcelona, so we [had] two more weeks to go. I had to give everything. It was a good team effort. We got four or five sacks in total as a team. I think we did a good defensive effort today.”
Golden West 27, Southwestern 20
Southwestern 7 – 6 – 0 – 7 – 20
Golden West 7 – 13 – 7 -0 – 27
S – Howard 13 pass from Owen (Del Fiero kick), 9:51.
GW – Morant 22 run (Casper kick), 7:57.
GW – Espinoza 20 run (kick failed), 5:14.
S – Johnson 85 pass from Owen (kick failed), 3:34.
GW – Atencio 19 pass from Espinoza (Casper kick), 0:24.
GW – Hobbs 63 pass from Espinoza (Casper kick), 1:19.
S – Owen 3 run (Del Fiero kick), 3:44.
S – Chapman, 13-51.
GW – Morant, 15-113, 1 TD.
S – Owen, 22-34-0, 276, 2 TDs.
GW – Espinoza, 9-15-0, 2 TDs.
S – Johnson, 4-105, 1 TD.
GW – Hobbs, 2-75, 1 TD.
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