The University of Redlands football team takes to the road to face one of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference's (SCIAC) other unbeaten teams at Chapman University on Saturday night in Orange. Kick-off is slated for 7:05 p.m. on Wilson Field.
Both squads have back-to-back wins under their belts, including last week's results against conference foes. Redlands topped the University of La Verne in a highly-anticipated battle that proved to be rather one-sided in a 48-14 decision, as Chapman prevailed over Whittier College in a 45-24 effort during Homecoming weekend.
For the Bulldogs, the offense utilized familiar faces in different places en route to its most efficient and balanced display of the season. Junior quarterback Levi Plante (Lake Arrowhead, CA) put together a strong, two-dimensional performance that included passes to senior quarterback-turned-wide-receiver Mitch Kidd (Salinas, CA) and the clearly versatile, senior Alex Andrighetto (Portola Valley, CA), who moved from return specialist to receiver to running back to receiver again in his four seasons. Overall, the Maroon and Gray earned twice as many first downs as the Leopards and racked up 431 yards of total offense with a nearly perfect split between the ground game (208) and the air attack (223). The team's rushing success came off of five ball-carriers, as highlighted by junior Conner Kennedy's (Olympia, WA) power and determination that propelled him to 68 yards on 11 rushes for one touchdown.
Overall, the Maroon and Gray earned twice as many first downs as the Leopards and racked up 431 yards of total offense with a nearly perfect split between the ground game (208) and the air attack (223). The team's rushing success came off of five ball-carriers, as highlighted by junior Conner Kennedy's (Olympia, WA) power and determination that propelled him to 68 yards on 11 rushes for one touchdown.
Chapman also boasts a very balanced offense that is very talented in a lot of ways. Known for their unique play-calling, the Panthers involve much personnel amidst many formations to create impressive variety, as shown by a reverse pass for a touchdown against Whittier in just the second play of the game.
Quarterback Ricky Bautista sits second in the conference with 1,038 passing yards with nine touchdowns and only one interception. His top target is Dominic Vaccher, who has a team-high 22 catches for 236 yards and two touchdowns. Bautista also goes to Jacob Isabel, who owns a team-leading 323 yards on just 16 catches for three scores. Isabel also returns kicks and punts for the Panthers. On the ground, Joe Mudie consistently finds a way to eclipse the 100-yard barrier in rushing yards, which has resulted in a team-best 421 yards on 54 carries for three touchdowns this season.
Redlands and Chapman currently rank 1-2 in nearly every offensive category in the SCIAC, including total offense, first downs, and conversions.
On the other side of the ball, the opposing offenses continue to challenge the Bulldog defense but Redlands keeps finding ways to regain possession. The Maroon and Gray held La Verne to just 14 points while hauling in three interceptions, including two by sophomore defensive back PJ Wilson (Modesto, CA). In addition, senior defensive back Daniel Gonzales (Mentone, CA) keeps coming up with picks, as he nabbed his sixth of the season, which ranks him first in the SCIAC and second in NCAA Division III.
"Our defense is playing at a high level of execution. They prepare well, practice well, and the coaches have done a great job of getting them ready," Maynard stated. "Offenses think they should throw away from Daniel but PJ is really good too. We're getting good pressure on the quarterback and stopping the run pretty well, but turnovers really do make a difference."
The Bulldogs have been pleased with the key contributions of senior defensive lineman Michael Burnette Jr. (Oxnard, CA), junior defensive lineman Tobias Leonardos (Half Moon Bay, CA), junior linebacker Nick Castro (La Verne, CA), and senior defensive back Nate Manomat-Rodriguez (Placentia, CA), among others.
Defensively, Curt Calomeni leads the Panthers with 27 total tackles, while Austin Pyka stands out with 21 tackles this year. In the secondary, Marek Spooner-LeDuff provides quality coverage, as shown by his four picks for 81 yards, including one for a touchdown against Pomona-Pitzer Colleges on September 30.
Since Chapman reinstated football in 1994, Maynard's teams have been consistently successful by earning a 16-4-1 record, including an 8-2 showing on the road. Last time the teams met, the Bulldogs prevailed in a 31-13 victory at home in 2016.
Regardless of the past, the Bulldogs know that they must perform at a high level to earn the victory over Chapman on Saturday.
"The threat of their explosive players and offensive system has our full attention. Chapman's defense practices against a very good offense each week, so they are used to seeing speed and strong attacks in both the run and pass aspects. All in all, Chapman is a tough competitor for us and we will need our best effort in all phases."
As different players find ways to push the Bulldogs forward, the Redlands football team looks to take another step in the right direction with a positive result against Chapman.