Game Preview: Bulldog Football Returns Home for SCIAC Showdown against La Verne

Photo credit: Charles Blackburn
Photo credit: Charles Blackburn

The University of Redlands football team excitedly returns to the friendly confines of Ted Runner Stadium for Saturday's Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) game against the visiting University of La Verne Leopards.  In addition, the Bulldogs host "Take a Kid to the Game Night," which invites the local community to share the fun of college football with children of all ages.

Redlands looks to build upon the momentum established during last week's impressive win at Occidental College that allowed Head Coach Mike Maynard to play nearly every available player.

"At any level, playing time is really important to team chemistry and morale. Having the guys get in the game and perform at a high level makes all the difference as we head into SCIAC play."

Last week, the Maroon and Gray scored the second-most points in school history in a 72-13 victory against the Tigers.  While the offense provided more positive consistency in an impressive showing, Maynard praised the versatility and success of three quarterbacks, as highlighted by freshman Nathan Martinez (Highland, CA) in his Bulldog debut.  With a limited number of snaps during practice, he stepped up to orchestrate three scoring drives. 

The Bulldog defense continued to shine, especially the secondary as one of the best in NCAA Division III.  Redlands ranks 21st in the nation with eight interceptions, as led by the top pass-defender, senior Daniel Gonzales (Mentone, CA), who owns a division-best 1.7 picks per game. 

Regardless of the secondary's success, Redlands touts a formidable crew that has successfully stopped the run, limiting opponents to only 86 yards per game to rank 26th in the country.  Specifically, junior Joe Munroe (Costa Mesa, CA), Tristan Corwin (Wildomar, CA), junior Nick Castro (La Verne, CA), and senior Mitch Shepherd (Seattle, WA) continue to wreak havoc on the interior line.

"We are so proud of what the defense is doing."

Last week, La Verne rallied for two, fourth-quarter turnovers and converted them into touchdowns for a big, comeback victory over Cal Lutheran University.  In addition, the Leopards recorded six sacks and limited the Kingsmen to only 29 yards rushing.  This impressive win has certainly put the Bulldog on notice to expect more from the team that finished 2-5 in SCIAC just a year ago.

"I think they're young and enthusiastic, and bring an energy we need to match," commented Maynard.  "They are learning a lot… and gelling to become a dangerous team; they certainly have our full attention."

With La Verne likely to use the run-pass-option, quarterback Josh Evan's athleticism and good decision-making make him a formidable play-caller.  He owns 258 yards through the air for three touchdowns and three picks.  His top target is wide receiver DaeJohn Logan, who has recorded seven catches for 126 yards thus far but also contributes on kick/punt returns. Running back Robert Fernandez leads the ground attack with 49 carries for 213 yards. 

But defensively is where the Leopards seem to excel, with Dalton Johnson ranking 26th in the nation with one sack per game, while Alex Olivas and Josh Padilla sit in a tie for 15th for tackles per game at 7.3.

Although it is early in the conference season, both teams realize the importance of all seven games and enter Saturday's contest with a sense of urgency.  Nonetheless, the Bulldogs hold high expectations for a positive outcome in what promises to be a "dawg fight."