Game Preview: Redlands Hosts Bulldog-Bruin Battle in Season Opener

Saturday's Bulldog captains are Tobias Leonardos, Nick Castro, Conner Kennedy, and Tommy Garcia.
Saturday's Bulldog captains are Tobias Leonardos, Nick Castro, Conner Kennedy, and Tommy Garcia.
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Season-Opening Kickoff: Sat., Sept. 1, at 7:05 p.m.

Ted Runner Stadium

University of Redlands


The University of Redlands football team embarks upon the program's first, 10-game schedule since 1986, when it takes the field on Saturday, September 1, against the Bruins of George Fox University (OR).  The familiar foes kick off in Ted Runner Stadium at 7:05 p.m.

Head Coach Mike Maynard looks forward to the season opener with as much enthusiasm now as he did at the start of his career 31 years ago.

"It's always a thrill and we are excited about the first game."

This marks the fourth straight season that the two teams have played each other.  The Bruins lead the series 2-1 so far, with wins in 2015 and 2017. 

With the bitter memory of last season's 10-13 loss serving as great motivation, the Bulldogs hold high expectations for a different outcome in Saturday's contest. 

"Last year is a regret, but we're focusing on the opportunities here and now.  We must do what it takes to play well against a strong opponent like George Fox.  We are excited for our seniors' last, first game," commented Maynard.

George Fox enters the 2018 campaign as the No. 2 pick out of the Northwest Conference (NWC), just like Redlands was slated to finish second in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC).  The Bulldogs strive to rise above that prediction with a one-game-at-a-time mentality while also benefitting from their overall strength of schedule, which begins with a solid opponent in GFU.

Both teams also received votes in the preseason top-25 rankings.

Despite the likelihood of first-game jitters, Redlands' keys to success lie in the obvious area of avoiding mistakes.

"We need to establish Bulldog football from the get-go.  We have a lot of players starting for the first time so it's exciting and fun to see them get out there.  But we need to play like we're more experienced. We know this will require a four-quarter effort," he stated.

Among the returning core, Redlands looks to the talents of senior quarterback Levi Plante (Lake Arrowhead, CA) to pick up where he left off in 2017.  Last season, he threw 15 touchdowns with only one interception while scoring 11 rushing touchdowns as the team's leading ball-carrier. 

"Levi is a tremendous playmaker and we are excited for him to wrap up a fantastic career with the Bulldogs."

In addition, senior center Tommy Garcia (La Habra, CA) anchors the always-critical offensive line as a highly-experienced contributor.

Defensively, Redlands appears somewhat young but has quite a few returning players stepping into prominent roles.  Among those leading the pack, senior linebacker Nick Castro (La Verne, CA); senior defensive linemen Joe Munroe (Costa Mesa, CA), Troy Kay (New York City, NY), and Tobias Leonardos (Half Moon Bay, CA); and junior defensive back PJ Wilson (Modesto, CA) bring the ability to make big plays and lead by example. 

"We expect the defense to play well," added Maynard.  "They are ready to go."

George Fox returns the NWC Co-Defensive Player of the Year in senior linebacker Charles Riga, while the skill and versatility of senior defensive end Caleb Dalzell illustrate the overall effectiveness of the Bruins' ability to counter the Bulldogs' possessions.

On the other side of the ball, GFU brings a physical style of play, with a sizable offensive line.  This allows junior running back Anthony Garcia to use his speed and craftiness to find openings.  Sophomore quarterback Jack Taylor remains a question mark for the Bulldogs, due to his limited snaps during the 2017 season.

Nonetheless, Redlands football welcomes the chance to open at home after three weeks of preseason camp.  With energy and determination, the squad strives to set the tone for an amazing year with a positive result in Saturday's contest.