Special Teams Dooms Rustlers in National Southern League Opener

Special Teams Dooms Rustlers in National Southern League Opener

Mission Viejo, Calif. - The Rustlers special teams unit made it difficult to get a rythym and gain momentum in Saddleback Stadium as they fell 39-7 to Saddleback College. 

Golden West and Saddleback combined for just 228 yards of offense in the opening half, but the Gauchos led 15-0 going into the locker rooms despite totaling 99 yards of offense. Saddleback can thank the special teams unit as they helped set up the two first half scores.

Saddleback blocked a punt with just over six minutes remaining in the opening quarter when they batted a ball off the leg of the Rustler punter James Baldwin. That led to the first score of the game as Saddleback would throw a six yard out to take a 7-0 lead. It was the second blocked punt of the quarter for Saddleback but they failed to capitalize on a block on the previous drive.  

On Golden West's next drive, the Rustler long-snapper hiked the ball three feet over Baldwin's head on a another punt attempt, giving Saddleback the ball deep in Rustler territory at the 17 yard line. The Gauchos would capitalize after a tough defensive stand from the Rustlers on a fourth and two to extend their lead. Saddleback then went for two out of the swinging gate formation, and their kicker would lower his shoulder for a 15-0 lead.

The third quarter was more of the same from the Rustler defense as it did all it could to slow down Saddleback but the offense just couldn't sustain a long enough drive to give the defense a break it needed. The Gauchos would march down the field late in the third quarter on an eleven play drive that covered 92 yards to extend their lead 25-0. The fourth quarter saw two more scores for the Gauchos before Golden West would get their first score of the game. Quarterback Joe Pyle would have his best drive of the game covering 81 yards on nine plays as he connected with Xavier Smith for a 23 yard touchdown pass with 2:53 left in the game. 

Derrick Deese led the receiving core with five catches for 76 yards and running back Tevon Valdez rushed for 51 yards on 14 carries. 

Next: Golden West will travel to Palomar and play at Escondido High School for a 6pm kickoff.