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The Hornet

Serving the Fullerton Community Since 1922

The Hornet

Hornets survive early onslaught by Gauchos

The Fullerton College football team used a late surge to keep their undefeated season alive against the Saddleback Gauchos, 48-44, Saturday, at Saddleback College. The game marked the third time this season that the Hornets came back after trailing by 17 or more points.

The Hornets trailed 44-41 with under two minutes to play. The Hornets were forced to go for a fourth-and-two from their own eight-yard line. Fullerton quarterback Jose Escobar found his favorite target, receiver Eli Pleasant, who danced 92 yards into the endzone.

“I was still confident at the end, especially throwing to Eli,” said FC quarterback Jose Escobar. “I threw the little speed out and he took care of the rest.”

Both Escobar and Pleasant had monster games. Escobar finished with 447 yards on 26-39 passing with four touchdowns. Pleasant was making plays all over the field, and caught 11 balls for 214 yards and two touchdowns.

Jose Escobar surveys the field before connecting with Eli Pleasant for the game winning 92-yard score, Saturday, at Saddleback.

The Gauchos (3-3) jumped all over the Hornets early and had a 37-17 lead early in the third quarter. After scoring seven seconds into the fourth quarter, the Hornet defense tightened up and held the Gauchos scoreless the rest of the game.

“This was a real tough loss,” said Saddleback coach Mark McElroy. “We played well enough to beat the only undefeated team left in the South [conference]. We just had a couple bad things happen late.”

Statistically, Saddleback quarterback Tim Belman may have had a better game than Escobar. Belman completed 38-59 passes, for 476 yards, with four touchdowns and an interception.

Belman’s one interception came at a very bad time. Right after the Hornets miraculous, late score, the Gauchos had the ball back with 1:40 remaing. Belman managed to drive his team all the way down the field.

On a first-and-ten from the Fullerton 28-yard line, Belman dropped back to throw a screen pass, but defensive lineman Antoine Turner read the route and jumped into the passing lane for the game-sealing interception.

Sophomore linebackers Justin Owens and Jordan Kessem bring down a Saddleback player in Saturday's win.

“We played really hard today,” said Belman. “A couple mistakes cost us late, but overall I thought we played a good game as a team.”

The Saddleback offense was carving up the FC defense early. They had three touchdown drives of more than 70 yards in the first half. The Gauchos also added two field goals and took a 27-17 lead into the half.

The Hornets managed two touchdown drives in the first half. The first on a 25-yard connection from Escobar to tight end Kishon Sanders. The other came on a 4-yard strike from Escobar to Pleasant at the end of a 10-play, 74-yard drive.

New Hornet kicker, Ian Boozer, already started paying dividends, hitting both of his field goal attempts, one from 47 yards out, the other from 28. He also hit all six of his extra point attempts.

The Gauchos started the second half just as hot. In the first five minutes of the half, Saddleback added two more scores. Belman connected with Chris French for a 10-yard score, and kicker Matt Boermeester nailed a 22-yard field goal.

Down by 20 points, the Hornets answered with two scores of their own. Boozer kicked his second field goal of the game and Nick Norman ran in a 4-yard score. After three quarters, the Hornets trailed 37-27.

Alejandro Marenco returns a kick for the Hornets in Saturday's 48-44 win over Saddleback.

Eric Lauderdale caught a touchdown pass from Belman, early in the fourth, which gave the Gauchos a 17-point lead and seemed like it sealed the game. However, with 12:47 left in the game, Escboar connected with last week’s hero, Ryan Longoria, to cut the deficit back down to 10 points.

With under five to play, Hornet running back Lavorrie Johnson broke away on a 45-yard score to pull the Hornets within three points. On the next possession the Gauchos went three-and-out which put the Hornets in position win the game on Pleasant’s stunning reception.

The win provided some relief to the Hornets, who have dropped the last three games against the Gauchos.

“It is always close when we meet,” said Tim Byrnes, the Hornet’s head coach. “They are a great team. They have taken the last three though, so it is about time.”

The Hornets (6-0, 2-0) will travel to Palomar to take on the Comets, next Saturday, at 1 p.m.

“We can enjoy the win tonight and tomorrow,” Pleasant said. “We got to get right back at it Monday, and get ready for Palomar.”

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