MISSION VIEJO — Sometimes going back in time can actually represent progress.
The Orange Coast College football team had junked its more traditional I-formation offense for the increasingly popular spread this fall.
But after a little more than a quarter of being out produced by host Saddleback in the season opener Saturday night, OCC reverted to a less-evolved scheme: the smashmouth double wing.
The results created optimism that carries beyond the 44-20 defeat in a game that produced 164 offensive plays, 923 yards of combined total offense and 26 combined penalties.
The contest also produced a pair of Pirates stars in freshman tailback Domenic Betts and freshman outside linebacker Colten Christiansen.
Betts' 216 rushing yards on 18 carries included an 82-yard scoring bolt and a one-yard touchdown plunge.
Betts, who also caught three passes for 29 yards, mostly fielded pitches in the double-wing scheme. In addition to his long scoring run, right up the gut of the Gauchos' defense, Betts ripped off gains of 29 and 25 yards.
The 5-foot-9, 190-pound Christiansen had 11 of his 13 tackles by halftime, as he finished with more than twice as many stops as any of his teammates and was in on one of his team's two sacks.
OCC, which struggled mightily on offense during a 2-8 season in 2010, produced 15 of its 22 first downs on the ground, as it amassed 375 rushing yards on 62 attempts.
The Pirates' passing game netted just 119 yards, most of which were produced by freshman quarterback Alex Cappellini, who was one of four quarterbacks to play and one of six Pirates to take a snap from center, not counting those in the kicking game.
Cappellini completed eight of 20 passes for 100 yards, including a 10-yard scoring strike to freshman and Estancia High product Matt Carlyle.
OCC lost two fumbles, one of which was returned for a touchdown and one that led to a short touchdown drive, and had a conversion kick blocked and retuned for two points.
And the Pirates, with just one returning starter on defense in sophomore cornerback Evan Law, had trouble with a Saddleback offense that is a big reason why the Gauchos were ranked No. 5 in the state and No. 10 in the nation in preseason polls.
Sophomore quarterback Ben Gomez connected with running back James Poole for a 60-yard scoring pass on the first play from scrimmage to spar a first quarter in which the hosts built a 23-6 advantage.
Gomez finished with 303 yards and four touchdown passes, completing 19 of 34.
Cappellini completed three passes on a nine-play, 71-yard scoring march that got the Pirates on the scoreboard midway through the first quarter.
But after he fumbled while being sacked, allowing Junior Alvarado to scoop and score from 16 yards out to make it 30-6 with 12:44 left in the first half, first-year OCC Offensive Coordinator Jack Wigmore initiated the double wing, which most often featured freshman Dan Rossi under center.
The offense, which Wigmore utilized during his high school coaching career in Oregon and Washington, helped the visitors drive 78 yards for a touchdown on 12 plays.
OCC alternated between the spread and the double wing as situations dictated, but produced just one more score, the aforementioned 82-yard sprint by Betts, who starred at Banning High in Banning, before graduating in 2009. Betts spent one season at College of the Desert, but did not burn any eligibility there.
Cappellini also rushed for 50 yards on 12 attempts, while freshman wingback Dylan Chynoweth chipped in 47 yards on eight rushing attempts.
Freshmen Dalton Gervais (three for six for 19 yards), Rossi (zero for two passing) and Alex Young (zero for two passing) also took their turns in the offensive shuttle that included two different running backs taking the shotgun snap on the first two OCC offensive plays.
Saddleback, which scored on four of its six offensive possessions before halftime, produced its only second-half points on an eight-play, 67-yard touchdown march late in the third quarter.
The Gauchos have won five straight against OCC and outscored the Pirates, 133-40, the last three seasons.
David Martinez, a freshman defensive end, was in on two sacks for OCC, which returns to action with a home date against Long Beach on Saturday at 1 p.m.
Saddleback 44, Orange Coast 20
SCORE BY QUARTERS
OCC 6 – 6 – 0 – 8 — 20
Sad 23 – 14 – 7 – 0 — 44
Sad – Poole 60 pass from Gomez (Harris kick), 14:33.
Sad – Lawson 14 pass from Gomez (Harris kick), 7:48.
OCC – Carlyle 10 pass from Cappellini (kick blocked), 5:01.
Sad – Pecci blocked PAT return, 5:01.
Sad – Poole 20 run (Steska kick), 2:41.
Sad – Alvarado 16 fumble return (Steska kick), 12:44.
OCC – Betts 1 run (pass failed), 5:56.
Sad – Closs 5 pass from Gomez (Harris kick), 2:38.
Sad – Schick 10 pass from Gomez (Harris kick), 2:46.
OCC – Betts 82 run (J. Hawkins run), 14:06.
OCC – Betts, 18-216, 2 TDs; Cappellini, 12-50; Chynoweth 8-47.
Sad – Poole, 8-38, 1 TD.
OCC – Cappellini, 8-20-0, 100, 1 TD.
Sad – Gomez, 19-34-0, 303, 4 TDs.
OCC – Roemer, 4-57; Carlyle, 4-33, 1 TD; Betts, 3-29.
Sad – Woodland, 6-58; Closs, 5-96, 1 TD.