The University of Redlands football team faced the Cal Lutheran University Kingsmen in the annual Smudge-Pot showdown on Saturday night in Ted Runner Stadium during Homecoming Weekend. With poise, persistence, and skill, the Bulldogs captured a 51-23 win to maintain the coveted trophy for the sixth consecutive year.
After an odd start to the contest that led to a 6-0 Kingsmen lead, the Maroon and Gray responded by earning a takeaway on a fumble recovery on the CLU 35-yard line. Redlands took advantage of the short field with an eight-play scoring drive off of senior running back Conner Kennedy's (Olympia, WA) six-yard jaunt into the end zone.
The teams traded fields to make it 10-9 through the midway point of the second quarter, as senior kicker Nathan Hierlihy (Redondo Beach, CA) split the uprights from 44 yards out for the Bulldogs.
Redlands scored on its next two possessions, with Kennedy gaining critical yards, including a long of 29 during these drives. In addition, senior quarterback Levi Plante (Lake Arrowhead, CA) found junior wide receiver David Molina (Laguna Hills, CA) on a 33-yard strike before tossing him a 10-yard touchdown pass.
The Bulldogs entered the locker room with a comfortable 24-9 lead but stayed hungry for more in the second half.
Redlands' defense remained relentless as well, stopping the Kingsmen on their opening drive of the third quarter. Overall, the Maroon and Gray forced CLU to punt five times on the night.
Offensively, the Bulldogs put up points on their final five drives, including Hierlihy's field goals of 37 and 23 yards. In addition, junior tight end Blake Roy (Camas, WA) hauled in a 28-yard catch for the touchdown and first-year running back Kai Thompson (Murrieta, CA) and Kennedy each carried the ball into the end zone.
The fourth quarter began with a bang, as senior defensive lineman Joe Munroe (Costa Mesa, CA) snagged an interception just past the line of scrimmage and sauntered 48 yards to set up one of Hierlihy's field goals.
While utilizing a ton of its depth, the team amassed 459 yards of total offense, including 308 on the ground. Kennedy accounted for 180 of those rushing yards on 29 carries.
Overall, Redlands held CLU to a 38% conversion rate on third down. The Bulldogs gained eight tackles apiece from senior linebacker Nick Castro (La Verne, CA) and sophomore linebacker Matthew Betancourt (San Bernardino, CA), with Betancourt supplying two tackles for a loss.
Redlands (6-2, 4-1 SCIAC) heads to Whittier College for a 5 p.m. SCIAC game against the Poets on Saturday, November 3.