The Hornets outlasted Saddleback College at the Snake Pit on Saturday night, holding off a late Gauchos rally on their way to a 21-16 victory.
Improving to 7-2 tonight, #4 Fullerton remains the only undefeated team in the Southern Conference at 5-0 and has secured at least a share of the Southern Conference title, its third in three years. The loss sets #11 Saddleback to 4-5 overall and 3-2 in conference play.
Back-to-back scoring drives from Saddleback closed an 18-point second-half FC lead to just five with 13:53 left. But after trading multiple possessions, the Hornets used a 3:59 drive to run down the clock to 33 seconds before being forced to punt. Rocky Taloa sealed the win with a fumble recovery off of Saddleback's Forrest Dunivin on the Gaucho's first and only play of the drive to send the Hornets into victory formation.
After having their opening drive, 35-yard field goal attempt blocked by Hornet Marcus Kirkpatrick, Saddleback scored first with a 22-yard field goal with 6:14 to go in the first quarter. Fullerton answered with a 26-yard strike from QB Joey Verhaegh to Garrett Reece-Scott, needing just seven plays to go 65 yards to take the 7-3 lead (Eyman kick good).
Verhaegh began FC's next drive at 1:41 in the second with back-to-back rushes and a 31-yard completion to Clayton Smith. With 41 seconds left, Verhaegh's pass was tipped from Khalil Wilson to WR Ryan Markush who ran the ten or so more yards for the 19-yard score (Eyman kick good). In addition to his 255 yards passing, Verhaegh's ground game included a season-long 30-yard run earlier in the second quarter.
Carrying the momentum into the second half, on 3rd and 28, Verhaegh hit LJ Gainey for a 31-yard completion. Two plays later, Smith snatched a 38-yard touchdown pass from Verhaegh out of the air to stretch the Hornet lead to 21-3 with 12:47 left in the third (Eyman kick good).
Saddleback scored on its final possession of the quarter and opening drive of the fourth to close in on FC at 21-16. Fullerton's defense shutdown the Gaucho's next two drives in the red zone, including an interception by Jakob McCarthy. For the night, the Hornet defense recorded seven tackles for a loss of 19-yards and were led by Austin Steele with a game-high 11 tackles, Tim Roberts with 10, and Kirkpatrick and McCarthy each with seven. Tolu Fieeiki finished with two TFL's and Fullerton's only sack.
Up Next: Fullerton (7-2, 5-0) looks to finish undefeated and outright conference champs with a 1:00 p.m. faceoff with Palomar College next Saturday, November 8, at Nathan Shapell Stadium. It's homecoming so come on out and support your Hornets!