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Vedder, Defense Lead Way to Division Title

Football: Saddleback's six sacks and quarterback's passing shut down Rancho Santiago, 25-16.


SANTA ANA — Justin Vedder, Saddleback's record-setting quarterback, asked for a favor after his team beat Rancho Santiago, 25-16, in a Mission Conference Central Division football game Saturday at Santa Ana Stadium.

The victory assured Saddleback (9-0, 5-0) a divisional title and a bid to a post-season bowl game. It also was the 15th consecutive victory for the Gauchos, who are ranked No. 1 in the state and second in the nation.

"Could you guys put something in about the defense," he said. "I'm in the paper all the time and the defense gives me a hard time. Just say 'I said [the defense] played great.' "

Saddleback's defense was impressive Saturday, much as it has been all season. The Gauchos, who had six sacks, limited Rancho Santiago to minus-two yards rushing.

Gage Oetgen, a defensive lineman, had three sacks and linebacker Kelii Kaanoi also had one sack and shared another. Fred Roberts, another linebacker, shared two sacks.

Saddleback shut down Rancho Santiago sophomore running back Jermaine Gray, who started the game with an Orange-County best 785 yards. He was held to a team-high 32 yards in 12 carries.

Saddleback led, 21-3, at the half, but Rancho Santiago got within five, 21-16, after two touchdowns in the first 30 seconds of the fourth quarter.

Mike Ogas picked up his fumble and went two yards for a touchdown with 14 minutes 53 seconds left as Rancho Santiago cut the lead to 21-10. Saddleback fumbled the ensuing kickoff at its 26.

After an incompletion on first down, Rancho Santiago quarterback Matt Mitchell threw a screen pass to Tramel Robinson, who ran 26 yards to the end zone untouched. The two-point conversion failed and Rancho Santiago (4-4, 2-2) was down, 21-16, with 14:30 left to play.

But Vedder, who earlier in the game broke the Saddleback all-time record for passing yardage, directed his team on a 72-yard touchdown drive.

The big plays were a 27-yard pass to Adam Roman on third down and a 20-yard pass to Peter Campbell that gave Saddleback a first down at the Rancho Santiago two.

Brendan McGraw scored from one yard to put Saddleback ahead, 28-16, with 11:20 to play. He added a 32-yard scoring run midway in the fourth quarter and finished with three touchdown runs.

Campbell had five catches for 101 yards, including a 32-yard reception that gave Saddleback a first down at the Rancho Santiago one. McGraw then scored on a one-yard run to put Saddleback ahead, 14-0, with 4:20 left in the first half.

Vedder was 13 of 24 for 180 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. He has passed for a Saddleback career-record 4,415 yards. The only major passing record Vedder doesn't hold is the one for touchdowns. However, he is one short of tying Tim Snowden (1991-92), who had 32.

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