Football wins Smudge Pot Game to Head to NCAA Tournament

by | Nov 18, 2016 | page 2, Sports

The Bulldogs’ toughest test in SCIAC didn’t come until the final game of the season, when they took on Cal Lutheran to earn the highly-coveted Smudge Pot, the trophy given annually to the winner. After an offensively disappointing first half, the Cal Lutheran Kingsmen scored 22 points in the third quarter to take a commanding 30-19 lead. The Bulldogs hadn’t lost an in-conference game all year and didn’t quit at the very end. Redlands scored 15 points in the final quarter of play to snatch a 34-30 victor over Cal Lutheran.

Redlands scored the first points of the game, going up 3-0 on a long 45-yard field goal by freshman kicker Nathan Hierlihy. But they were soon countered by the Kingsmen, who scored a touchdown, giving themselves an 8-3 lead after their two-point conversion was successful. In the second quarter, the Bulldog offense finally showed signs of life when junior quarterback Mitch Kidd found junior wide receiver Kyle Kabeary in the endzone for a 21-yard touchdown pass. Redlands strategically went for the two-point conversion as well, but they were unsuccessful, giving them a mere one-point advantage at the half.

Aggressiveness caused problems for Redlands at the beginning of the second half. Instead of punting, the Bulldogs decided to go for it on fourth down, pinned against their own 27 yard line. They were stopped short, and Cal Lutheran scored on the very next play to give them a 14-9 lead, after they also missed a two-point conversion. The two teams traded blows from there. Redlands took to the air and scored on a 76-yard touchdown pass to redshirt junior Christian Guzman which gave the Bulldogs the lead once more, 16-14. The momentum it gave Redlands was short lived, as the Kingsmen scored a touchdown on the next drive and added a two-point conversion to give Cal Lutheran the 22-16 lead. After a Redlands field goal, the Kingsmen tacked on 8 more points, putting them ahead by 11, a point in the game in which many of their players may have thought was the high point of an improbable upset win.

But the Bulldogs persevered. They pinned Cal Lutheran in their own endzone for a safety and scored a touchdown to narrow the Kingsmen’s lead to two points. After forcing a punt, the Bulldogs were on their own 3-yard line in desperate need of a touchdown– something that was in their near future. Kidd was able to find Guzman once again, and he broke free to take the pass to the house for the touchdown. A two-point conversion attempt failed, but the momentum the team had created was enough to give them a come-from-behind win, 34-30.

The Bulldogs finished SCIAC play undefeated and won eight straight games overall after losing their opener versus Trinity College. That record allowed them to make it to the NCAA DIII national tournament. As exciting as the nomination was, they now have their biggest game of the year coming up— against arguably the best DIII team in the country. The Bulldogs take on Mary Hardin-Baylor University on Saturday, November 19th. The Crusaders are a DIII powerhouse, winning their conference again this year for the 12th consecutive time, and posting an undefeated record in six of the last seven seasons.

[photo courtesy of Halie West from goredlands.com]

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