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Before Its Bowl, Rancho Santiago Has to Deal With Saddleback

November 19, 1994|STEVE KRESAL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Rancho Santiago's players lifted Coach Dave Ogas on their shoulders last week to celebrate the Dons' 34-7 victory over Fullerton.

The joyful moment came because the Dons clinched a share of the Mission Conference Central Division, their first title since 1971.

The victory also assured Rancho Santiago a berth in a Dec. 3 bowl game. Invitations can't officially be extended until the season is over, but Rancho Santiago will be invited to play in the Simple Green Orange County Bowl at Orange Coast College.

As for an opponent, the bowl committee hopes to get Los Angeles Valley, also 8-1.

But before worrying about a postseason opponent, the Dons would like to finish the regular season with a homecoming victory over Saddleback. The teams meet at 1:30 p.m. today at Santa Ana Stadium.

Rancho Santiago (8-1, 5-0) comes in with an eight-game winning streak and is the top-ranked team in Southern California. The Dons are sixth in the J.C. Grid-Wire national poll.

Saddleback is 1-6-2, 1-2-2, but the Gauchos could have had a much better season with a few more breaks. Besides two ties, the Gauchos have lost three games by a total of nine points.

In other Central Division games:

Fullerton (5-3-1, 4-1) at Southwestern (0-8-1, 0-4-1), 7 p.m.--A week ago, Fullerton played for first place in the division and lost. The best the Hornets can hope for is a share of the title if they win and Rancho Santiago loses.

Fullerton's offense should do well, considering Southwestern has the worst defense in the conference. The Apaches are giving up 49 points per game, including 138 in the last two games.

Marc O'Brien, Fullerton's quarterback, has completed 65% (156 of 241) for 1,889 yards. He has thrown for 11 touchdowns and run for three more. Steve Correa has 41 catches for 646 yards and three touchdowns.

Fullerton's defense is second in the conference, giving up 348 yards a game. The Hornets are fourth against the run and pass.

Riverside (3-6, 2-3) at Orange Coast (2-7, 2-3), 7 p.m.--The winner finishes third in the division. A victory by Orange Coast would also give the Pirates victories in three of their final four games after losing their first six. Jeff Clayton of OCC has rushed for a county-high 919 yards in 185 carries. He has nine touchdowns.

The Pirates have gotten a strong performance from wide receiver Chris Jackson, a former basketball standout at Mater Dei. Jackson had 33 catches for 694 yards and nine touchdowns. He averages 21 yards per catch.

Riverside leads the conference in rushing (256 yards a game) but last in passing (102).

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