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Defense makes the difference for Fullerton in playoff win over Saddleback

Photo by Matt Brown
Photo by Matt Brown

Recap by Phil Thurman, Fullerton College Sports Information

In the SCFA Semifinal game, the #1 Fullerton College Football Hornets will advance to the finals after ending #4 Saddleback College's season on Saturday 33-21.

It was a home game for Fullerton, who had to play at Whittier College because of CCCAA bylaws forbidding community college football teams from playing on a high school field. In their 101 years of football, the Hornets have never had their own home field playing games at Fullerton High, Anaheim Stadium, La Palma Park, Cal State Fullerton, Yorba Linda High, and now Whittier College.

The Gauchos forced a quick three-and-out on the Hornet's opening drive, and then took over at their own 30 yard line. From there, Saddleback drove down for the game's first score, a 6-yard touchdown run by quarterback Max Gilliam. The Gauchos went for two and got it on a pitchout to the kicker Mateo Thompson.

The FC offense continued to sputter, and Saddleback took advantage scoring again at 14:08 in the second quarter. Gilliam hit receiver Chris Spiering in stride who took it 20 yards to the end zone.

For the first time this season, the Hornets were down by their largest deficit at 15-0.

Hornet quarterback Johnny Feauto woke the offense leading the team to the Promised Land on a pass to Kedryan Wilson for a 20-yard score.

Fullerton was on the board and back in the game, but the Gauchos were not done. After a fumbled punt, in which Saddleback recovered on the Hornet 43, Gilliam struck again on the second play throwing a 43-yard touchdown pass to Chris Spiering (9:58 2nd quarter).

The Hornets answered the call on their next series. Justin Manyweather put FC in great field position taking the punt 55 yards to the Gaucho 45 yard line. From there Feauto led a 6-play 30-yard drive that ended with a 13-yard pass to Markus Grossman (8:11 2nd quarter).

Fullerton's defense held strong forcing the Gauchos to go for it on fourth and four on the Hornet 34 yard line. FC's Caleb Johnson broke through the line and sacked Gilliam for an 8-yard loss. The Hornets took over on their own 42 yard line and they did not disappoint their fans scoring on a drive led by QB Ladarius Skelton, who took the rock in on a spinning run from five yards out. The extra point was no good and Fullerton trailed by a mere point, 21-20, with just over three minutes left in the first half.

FC got the ball back with a minute to go and drove down 36-yards in 8 plays scoring on long 45-yard field goal by Antonio Estrada as the last second ticked off the scoreboard before halftime. The Hornets went into the half with their first lead of the game 23-21.

The second half began with a couple of failed offensive drive for both teams, but the tables began to turn in Fullerton's favor with just over eight minutes into the third quarter when defensive lineman JeMycheal Mooreintercepted a pass that was batted on the line of scrimmage by fellow d-lineman Oscar Burgueno.

After Moore's rumbling run for 26-yards, Fullerton found themselves on the Saddleback 26-yardline. The Hornets ended the drive with a 20-yard field goal by Estrada furthering their lead 26-21.

At the start of the fourth quarter, the Gauchos were pounding on the Hornet's door preparing to take the lead back, but FC's Kameron Powell turned the game on its head intercepting the ball in end zone. Powell did it again a few drives later putting Saddleback's hopes of a score on ice.

On the ensuing drive, Fullerton delivered a back-breaking score off of the legs of Skelton who slashed in from the 3-yardline putting the Hornets up by the final score of 33-21.

The Hornet defense was truly impressive in a game where the offense put out their lowest scoring total on the season. FC held the Gauchos scoreless for the whole second half forcing 3 key turnovers with 8 sacks for a loss of 58 yards. Montre Bonner and Joey Noble both had 2 sacks in key situations. Taj Jones was all over the field totaling a game-high 11 tackles (9 solo / 2 assist).

For the record, the overall series between these two proud programs now stands 17-17.


Defensive Player of the Game - Montre Bonner, Fullerton

Offensive Player of the Game - Max Gilliam

MVP - Kedryan Wilson

Up Next: The Hornets will now host #2 Riverside City College for the Southern California Football Association Championship this Saturday, November 25th. Kickoff will be at 1:00 pm at Whittier College's Memorial Stadium. The winner of this game will move on to the State Championship game to be held up at Sacramento City College. Come on out and support your Hornets!