Early Lead Falls Short for Bulldog Football in Season Opener against George Fox

Devin Appleton powers through the line against GFU (photo credit: Kevin Cline).
Devin Appleton powers through the line against GFU (photo credit: Kevin Cline).

The University of Redlands football team opened the 2015 season on Saturday in Newberg, OR, by facing off against the Bruins of George Fox University.  Despite racking up 499 yards of total offense, the Bulldogs struggled to shake their first-game jitters in critical penalty situations during the second half, which led to a difficult 35-39 loss.

Redlands was first to score when junior running back Devin Appleton (San Jose, CA) scampered into the GFU end zone from two yards out to cap off a seven-play, 80-yard drive.  While earning today's start for the Bulldogs, junior quarterback Paul Avila (Santa Maria, CA) connected with sophomore wide receiver Cole Blackburn (Sammamish, WA) on a pair of 20-plus receptions during the series.

Early in the second quarter, Redlands made it a 14-0 game by moving the ball 48 yards to the promise land.  With Appleton and senior running back Curtis Tanquary (San Jose, CA) providing key yardage on the ground, the Bulldogs topped off the drive with an Avila completion to sophomore wide receiver Kyle Kabeary (Indio, CA) for a 14-yard touchdown strike.

Watch the catch here.

Although the Bruins answered with 13 points of their own, the Maroon and Gray remained in front when the teams retreated into the locker rooms.

With senior quarterback Kevin Russell (Lacey, WA) under center to start the second half, the Bulldogs extended their lead with a seven-point play early in the third quarter.  Tanquary set up the efficient score with a 12-yard carry, before Russell found junior wide receiver Christian Guzman (Desert Hot Springs, CA) on a 35-yard reception for the score.

From here, the teams traded touchdowns to make it 21-19, with the Bulldogs' special teams blocking the Bruins' point-after try.

However, GFU responded by forcing its way into the Redlands end zone in consecutive fashion for the home team's first lead of the game at 32-28.

Nonetheless, Russell and company marched the Bulldogs downfield for a six-play, 75-yard drive into the end zone to regain the lead.  Junior wide receiver Yoshio Hasegawa nabbed a 60-yard pass to highlight the drive, while sophomore wide receiver Alex Andrighetto (Portola Valley, CA) hauled in a three-yard toss for the score.   

Unfortunately for Redlands, George Fox answered with a late-game score, which proved to be the difference-maker in the back-and-forth contest.

Avila registered 140 yards on a 13-for-21 performance, while Russell added 153 yards off of a 7-for-12 showing.  While utilizing nine different receivers, the Bulldog quarterbacks used Blackburn as their top target with 66 yards on five catches. 

On the ground, Appleton and Tanquary picked up right where they left off in 2014, with each serving as smart and effective ball-carriers.  Appleton led all players with 106 yards on 20 attempts, while Tanquary averaged 5.7 yards per carry for 86 yards.

Defensively, jujnior defensive back Jalen DeVine (Richland, WA) stepped up with a team-high nine tackles, including six solo hits.  Junior defensive back Connor Hoffman (Tustin, CA) added six tackles to go along with the Bulldogs' only interception of the game, which came early in the first quarter.

Senior Sean Murray (Phoenix, AZ) managed all of the kicking duties today, converting all five extra points.  He also averaged 37.5 yards on punts while nailing two inside the 20-yard line.

Redlands (0-1) faces a challenging and exciting week ahead, as it prepares for another trip to Oregon to face No. 3 Linfield College (OR) on Saturday, September 19, at 12 noon in McMinnville.