The University of Redlands football team travels to Thousand Oaks for Saturday's Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) game against the Cal Lutheran University Kingsmen with hopes of defending the Smudge Pot for the fifth-consecutive year. Kick-off has been slated for 12:20 p.m. at William Rolland Stadium.
The annual Smudge-Pot game promises to bring plenty of emotion from both teams, which are competing in the final game of the regular season with the desire to finish things strong in 2017. In addition to playing for the six-year-old tradition that celebrates the heritage and history of the citrus industries in Ventura and San Bernardino counties, each team works to send off its senior class with one final bang on a hard-fought and meaningful victory.
Redlands strives to continue its offensive performance from a week ago that saw a record-setting 76 points go up on the board in Ted Runner Stadium, with multiple players finding the end zone against the Whittier College Poets. Among the scorers, senior tight end Bryce Broadwell (Henderson, NV) snagged a four-yard touchdown toss early in the first quarter. In addition, senior wide receiver Alex Andrighetto (Portola Valley, CA) hauled in a remarkable catch off of a pass from junior quarterback Levi Plante (Lake Arrowhead, CA) that was perfectly placed over the defensive coverage for a 25-yard touchdown.
Defensively, the Bulldogs maintain a break-neck pace of interceptions with 18 on the season, as led by senior defensive back Daniel Gonzales (Mentone, CA), who has nine to lead all of NCAA Division III. Head Coach Mike Maynard attributes this success to the team's effective zone defense and its ability to effectively play against the run, which forces opponents to throw in ill-advised situations. Along with Gonzales, sophomore defensive backs PJ Wilson (Modesto, CA) and Chad Virgil (Menifee, CA) have brought amazing coverage in the secondary, while senior linebackers Mitch Shepherd (Seattle, WA) and Curren Lapes, junior defensive lineman Joe Munroe (Costa Mesa, CA), senior defensive lineman Michael Burnette Jr. (Oxnard, CA), and company have provided relentless pressure on the opposing offenses.
"Last game was a fun night, on and off the field," Head Coach Mike Maynard stated. "We were a happy team and had the chance to play a lot of players."
Although the Bulldogs escaped last week without any significant injuries, they face a well-rested team in Cal Lutheran, which did not compete due to Occidental College's decision to cancel football this season.
"We expect this to be a battle of wills and a battle of energy," Maynard commented. "They are a great football team that is always well-prepared. We have a lot of respect for their coaches and players."
Among the Kingsmen's quality contributors, Redlands expects big offensive plays from a talented corps of receivers, including Wendell O'Brien, who has amassed 586 yards and 10 touchdowns, and Aaron Lacombe with 823 yards and seven scores. Count on quarterback Adam Friederichsen to remain prosperous with his efficiency rating of 173.2, which has included more than 2,000 passing yards for 22 touchdowns. Despite their high-quality air attack, the Kingsmen also rely on running back Chris Beeson, who single-handedly accounted for 35 of his team's 60 points against Whittier on October 21. He has more than 700 yards and 11 touchdowns as the primary ball-carrier.
Aside from the customary football expectations for success that include good field position, minimizing turnovers, an effective kicking game, and converting in the red zone, the Bulldogs realize that Saturday's outcome might come down to other aspects of competition.
"We have to match their energy, play fast from the beginning, and initiate action right away," Maynard said. "Our team will be ready and we hope to keep the Smudge Pot at Redlands."