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September 3, 2011

Redlands Football Upsets No. 4 North Central College (IL) in Season Opener

The University of Redlands football team made history tonight by upsetting the visiting Cardinals of North Central College (IL) in Saturday's early season opener at Ted Runner Stadium. With a preseason ranking of No. 4 by D3football.com, the highly touted opponent from Illinois gave Bulldog Head Coach Mike Maynard what he classified as the biggest game of his tenure, according to a recent newspaper article. Despite facing a 13-point deficit, the Maroon and Gray rallied back to capture a 35-29 victory over the Cardinals in front of an electric "Rah Rah Redlands" crowd of more than 2,100.

In addition to this exciting achievement, the program also broadcast the game live over the Internet for the first time in school history.

After a slow start that resulted in 13 straight points for North Central, the Bulldog offense finally responded with a nine-play, 97-yard drive downfield that culminated in an 11-yard dance into the end zone by senior wide receiver Mark Richardson II (Los Angeles, CA). Sophomore kicker Kevin Grady (Seattle, WA) notched his first of five point-after tries of the night.

Utilizing a two-headed quarterback system, the Cardinals answered with a touchdown on their subsequent drive, making it a 19-7 ball game.

Refusing to give into the hype of their unfamiliar opponent, the Bulldogs returned to the field after halftime with a noticeable fervor and determination that inspired the crowd on more than one occasion. They racked up 28 of their 35 points in the final two quarters.

Redlands marched its opening possession of the second half into the promise land to cut the deficit to five. In one of its more diverse offensive series, the Bulldogs put together a 10-play, 76-yard drive that was highlighted by junior quarterback Chad Hurst's (Dixon, CA) 15-yard rush into the red zone for a first down. Although the Maroon and Gray fumbled the ball just before scoring, Redlands' senior wide receiver Taylor Chapatte (San Diego, CA) recovered it for six points.

The Maroon and Gray defense came up with big plays in its first outing of the third quarter. On fourth and one for NCC, the Bulldog stalwarts brought the fans to their feet when it found a way to deny the first down, thus shifting the momentum back in their favor.

Redlands nabbed its first lead of the game when it posted a 10-play, 59-yard drive for the touchdown late in the third quarter, making it 21-19. Highlighting this series, Hurst connected with Richardson for 19- and 16-yard strikes. Hurst eventually ran the ball in for the score from two-yards out.

The fourth quarter provided a roller-coaster experience as the teams traded blows while pouring on a total of 24 points. With 16 first downs between them, the game remained unpredictable until the final ticks of the clock.

The quarter's first score came on the heels of an eight-play, 48-yard drive by North Central, making it 26-21.

Down by five, Redlands responded with a gutsy performance by Hurst and his crew in which they recorded three completions and one rush while taking advantage of two critical Cardinal penalties. Hurst eventually found sophomore Taylor Irwin (Rocklin, CA) on a 10-yard pass into the end zone, giving Redlands a 28-26 advantage with 6:32 remaining. He also connected with Richardson for 11 yards and senior Tyler Aubrey (San Diego, CA) for 21 yards.

However, the No. 4 team in the country continued to fight back as senior quarterback Brad Crackel (Oswego, IL) led the Cardinals 62 yards for the score and the one-point lead.

Despite his seemingly lack of game experience, Hurst stepped up for the Bulldogs by guiding them downfield for one more touchdown in the final 94 seconds of the game. During this span, he went 5-for-11 in passing, including a fourth-and-10 play that landed in Irwin's capable hands for 17 yards. Redlands also benefited from a pass interference call, which put the offense at the NCC 26-yard line.

After sprinkling the yardage between four receivers, Hurst ran the ball five yards into the end zone for his second touchdown of the game, making it 35-29 with 24 seconds to go.

Again, knowing that North Central is no slouch, the Bulldog defense took care of business in the Cardinals' final attempt to win the game. Senior defensive back Josh Herrera (Vista, CA) eventually secured the Redlands win when he nabbed an interception at the Redlands 21-yard line.

Hurst impressed in his first collegiate start by racking up 275 yards on 26-for-45 passing with three interceptions.

Richardson posted a team-high 103 yards on just six receptions while Irwin added 71 yards on 10 catches.

Defensively, the Bulldogs benefited from a talented trio as Herrera, junior linebacker Justin Butler (Poway, CA) and senior linebacker Jordan Garcia (Carlsbad, CA) came up with a combined 34 tackles. Butler also returned four kickoffs for 103 yards, including a long of 33.

Overall, Redlands gained one more first down than its opponents, but the Cardinals dominated possession with nearly an 11-minute advantage.

The Bulldogs (1-0) enjoy a bye week before preparing for Northwest Conference foe Whitworth University (WA) on Sept. 17 in Spokane, WA, at 1 p.m.