East County Sports

Olympians drop key game to Bobcats


From staff and wire reports

MISSION VIEJO — With a look-ahead spot just a week away, San Diego Mesa College blew its chance for a state playoff berth, falling to host Saddleback College, 41-31, at Swearingen Memorial Stadium.

The setback dropped the Olympians (3-2 overall, 1-1 NCSD) a full game behind tri-leaders Fullerton, Riverside, and the Bobcats (3-2 overall). Thus, they must sweep the remaining four games on their schedule, and then receive some help along the way.

Meanwhile, surging Saddleback collected its third straight win following an 0-2 start, rallying from an early 17-3 deficit by registering 31 consecutive points over a 19-minute span.

Entering the contest midway through the second quarter, Branden Berwald came off the bench at quarterback and gave the Bobcats a much-needed spark after the offense sputtered.

Berwald hit Tristan Duncan with a 17-yard scoring strike as the Bobcats narrowed the deficit to 17-10 with 3:31 remaining in the half.  He then scampered 17 yards for a score with 30 seconds left on the clock as the Bobcats and Olympians went to the locker rooms tied at 17-17.

Saddleback continued the surge when Will Craven returned the opening kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown, giving the Bobcats a 24-17 lead.  Saddleback would later get a field goal from Kian Afrookhteh late in the third quarter and a touchdown run from Paolo Burak to open the fourth quarter, building up a 34-17 advantage.

San Diego Mesa finally answered with a 15-yard TD catch from Kader Diop to end the scoring string.

The Bobcats finished with seven tackles-for-loss and three sacks. led by Michael D’Amato (game-high 8 tackles) and  Travis Arena (6 tackles, 2.5 sacks).

Mesa, trailing 3-0, took a 17-3 lead with quarterback James Odom fired two TD passes, which sandwiched a 24-yard field goal by Mauricio Escudero.

Odom (22-for-22, 126 yards) finished with three TD passes, while Branden Berwald (9-for-18, 96) fired another.

The Olympians’ top stopper was Eric Gant with 8 tackles (7 solo), but the defense failed to produce a turnover.

OLYMPIAN HISTORY: These schools have a long history, once meeting in the 1981 Pony Bowl held at Cerritos College in Norwalk. Mesa has a chance to win in the final seconds, but a fourth-down pass in the end zone was intercepted, giving Saddleback — then nicknamed the Gauchos — a dramatic 13-12 triumph in the fog.


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