The University of Redlands football team kicked off the 2018 campaign by hosting George Fox University (OR) under pristine conditions on Saturday night in Ted Runner Stadium. With a total team effort, the Bulldogs muscled their way to a 20-12 victory over the in-region foe to avenge last year's disappointing result.
"This is a quality win against a good team. This gives us a great start to the season," stated Head Coach Mike Maynard. "We are happy to get this win."
Redlands forced GFU to punt on its opening drive before turning around and moving the chains for a total of 68 yards on 13 plays that resulted in a 44-yard field goal by senior kicker Nathan Hierlihy (Redondo Beach, CA). During this possession, junior tight end Blake Roy (Camas, WA) initiated his stellar night with two completions for a combined 15 yards.
The teams' subsequent drives mirrored the opening ones, with the exception of how they each ended. The Bulldogs stepped up to block the Bruins' 32-yard field-goal attempt and quickly capitalized on that momentum swing with a touchdown. Senior quarterback Levi Plante (Lake Arrowhead, CA) orchestrated an efficient 83-yard drive that included four completed passes, three of which stretched 10 yards or more. In addition, he hit four different receivers, as highlighted by sophomore wide receiver Noah McFadden's (Puyallup, WA) first touchdown as a Bulldog, which came on a 12-yard strike for the Maroon and Gray's 10-0 lead.
Although George Fox made its way into the end zone midway through the second quarter, the Bulldogs answered right back to extend their lead with another Hierlihy field goal. This critical drive included a huge seven-yard rushing play by Plante, as he dove head first to secure the first down. In addition, senior running back Conner Kennedy (Olympia, WA) found space through the line of scrimmage for a total 12 rushing yards and 12 receiving yards.
Although the third quarter's opening drive ended with a Bulldog fumble, it provided a pivotal point that proved to be positive for the home team.
"No one flinched, no one hung their heads," commented Maynard.
The Bulldogs went right back to work and scored their final touchdown of the night, as Plante continued to run the offense with accuracy and versatility. Anchored by senior Joey Caffaro (Jackson Hole, WY), junior Will Soares (Gilroy, CA), senior Tommy Garcia (La Habra, CA), junior Brandyn Alvarez (Grand Terrace, CA), and senior Christian Godina (Phoenix, AZ), the offensive line continued to find ways to create opportunities for the Maroon and Gray. Redlands utilized sophomore quarterback Nathan Martinez (Redlands, CA) and junior running back Dalton Lohman (San Clemente, CA) on the ground, with junior tight end Blake Roy (Camas, WA) and junior wide receiver Mitchell Nickovich (Mission Viejo, CA) hauling in important catches. The Maroon and Gray gained seven points from sophomore wide receiver Kai Kang's (Sammamish, WA) 14-yard reception and Hierlihy's successful PAT.
The teams' defenses traded blows over the next few possessions, as junior defensive lineman Alieu Corr (Banjul, The Gambia), junior defensive back PJ Wilson (Modesto, CA), and sophomore defensive back Carl Holmes (Fresno, CA) leading the charge for the Bulldogs.
After GFU took advantage of good field position with 7:23 remaining, Redlands remained in front by a score of 20-12. The Bruins had one more shot to score late in the game, but the Bulldogs denied the final effort with poise and determination.
The Bulldogs racked up 405 yards of total offense. Kennedy finished the night with 94 yards on 23 carries, including a long of 13, to go along with three catches for 49 yards. Plante tossed out 24 completions for 254 yards with no interceptions.
Holmes paced the defense with seven total tackles and two pass breakups.
Redlands (1-0) heads to Tacoma, WA, on Saturday, September 8, for an important showdown against the University of Puget Sound. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m.