COSTA MESA — Due to some fortuitous off-season football realignment, Orange Coast College is no longer in the same division or conference as Saddleback.
And after a 37-6 Gauchos victory in the season opener Saturday at OCC, the eighth win for Saddleback in the last nine meetings between the two, the Pirates are clearly still not in their southern neighbors' league.
Only three times did the Orange Coast offense get beyond midfield as the Pirates mustered only 15 yards rushing, due largely to six quarterback sacks.
One of the aforementioned excursions into Saddleback territory was the Gauchos' 49-yard line. Another began at the Saddleback 44 after a short punt, a late fourth-quarter possession that ended in a missed 20-yard field-goal try.
OCC gained more than 20 yards on only two possessions, the first of which resulted in an eight-play, 55-yard touchdown drive just before halftime that helped keep them within striking range at intermission, trailing only 16-6.
It was OCC freshman quarterback Zach Emde who was most often in striking range … in the crosshairs of Saddleback defenders, who dropped him seven times at or behind the line, hurried him nearly a dozen times more and returned his lone interception for a touchdown.
The interception return, a 35-yard sprint by Gary Stevenson, capped a two-touchdown blitz within a 43-second span that effectively put the game away for the Gauchos.
OCC's defense held its own, forcing eight punts and recovering two fumbles that halted additional scoring threats.
But Saddleback scored on two of its first three possessions, both four-play drives, and amassed 395 yards of total offense, 283 of which came via the pass.
Emde completed 17 of 35 passes for 148 yards, though only one — the 29-yard fade route to Keali'i Doll that produced the lone touchdown with 55 seconds left in the second quarter — gained more than 16 yards.
Emde finished with minus-34 yards rushing.
Six points are the fewest for OCC since a 34-3 loss to Mt. San Antonio in 2007, a span of a 26 games.
"You're always disappointed when you lose and we put up six points," said Emde, making his first appearance in a game since 2008 at Murrieta Valley High. "That's not how we prepare ourselves to play. Our coaches work too hard and we work too hard throughout the week to come out and perform like that. But we're going to grow from this. I don't see this happening again."
Doll, a sophomore, had six receptions for 60 yards to highlight the offense for the Pirates, whose most successful running play was an 11-yard reverse by Doll.
Freshman tailbacks Robert Penny, Luis Kimble and Bill Champhalee combined for 48 yards on 17 carries, with Penney topping the trio with 24 yards on eight attempts.
Freshman punter Ricky Carroll was perhaps OCC's best weapon. He averaged 43.5 yards on 11 punts, including a long of 65 yards.
Sophomore end Eric Homec recovered a fumble, deflected a pass at the line and had a tackle for a loss, while freshman outside linebacker Corbin Davis recovered a fumbe and was in on several tackles.
Sophomore end Bryce Brantley leveled Saddleback quarterback Sean Reilly in the end zone after the OCC transfer released an incomplete pass. The blow appeared to knock Reilly out, as the former Pirate was attended to by trainers while flat on his back in the end zone for a few moments.