The University of Redlands football team faced No. 2 University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in the first round of the 2013 NCAA Division III Championships on Saturday in Belton, Texas, during its seventh appearance under Head Coach Mike Maynard. After running the table to capture the program's 29th Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) Championship during the regular season, the Bulldogs lost for the first time since September 21, as they came up short against the Crusaders in a 7-35 decision.
Amidst the excitement of competing in the playoffs for the first time since 2011, the Bulldogs nicely settled into the rhythm by moving the ball well on their opening drive while forcing the opponents to a four-and-out to start the game.
However, the Crusaders registered a pair of quick touchdowns by taking advantage of a short field late in the first quarter and then making the most of Redlands' only turnover of the game at the start of the second.
Both teams missed a field-goal opportunity in the second stanza, leaving the Bulldogs' deficit at 14 points by halftime.
Statistically, Redlands was right in the game, converting eight first downs, as compared to UMHB's seven in the first half. The Bulldogs rushed 21 times for 100 yards, while the Cru carried the ball for 108 yards on 26 attempts. Senior running back Bobby Brown (Rancho Santa Margarita, CA) and junior quarterback Kevin Russell (Lacey, WA) served as the primary ball-carriers for Maroon and Gray. Russell also orchestrated a successful air attack for Redlands, completing six passes for 56 yards in the, with Mary Hardin-Baylor tallying only three successful tries for 14 yards.
Despite the similarities on paper, the home squad maintained the momentum during the third quarter, leading to a punt return for a touchdown and a 63-yard scoring drive by the three-minute mark.
Nonetheless, Redlands refused to go away, showing resiliency and determination when senior defensive back Brandon Morris (Mission Viejo, CA) nabbed his second pick of the season and then returned it 53 yards to the UMHB 32-yard line.
From here, it took Russell and the Bulldogs only two plays to find a wide open senior wide receiver Aaron Atkins (Fallbrook, CA), thanks to the relentless work of the offensive line. Atkins hauled in a 29-yard strike into the far corner of the end zone to put the Bulldogs on the board late in the third frame.
Senior kicker Kevin Grady (Seattle, WA) successfully split the uprights to complete the seven-point play for the Maroon and Gray.
After assessing a personal foul against the Crusaders on the kickoff, the Bulldogs pinned the opponents at their own 11-yard line. Crusader Matt Carpenter's return was stopped short by Redlands' senior linebacker Tyler Ewing (Sacramento, CA) and freshman linebacker Austin Terry (San Ramon, CA).
However, UMHB managed to find space on the ground during the ensuing two plays to score the final touchdown of the game.
Redlands finished with 304 yards of total offense on 67 plays, with the Crusaders tallying 373 yards on the same number of plays. The Bulldogs gained 179 through the air, with sophomore wide receiver Steven Herber (Rancho Cucamonga, CA) serving as the top target with 53 yards on four catches. However, senior wide receiver Taylor Irwin (Rocklin, CA) and junior wide receiver James Ramirez (La Verne, CA) also recorded four receptions, amassing 48 and 28 yards, respectively.
Defensively, the Bulldogs gained 11 total hits from junior linebacker Michael Tootle (Las Vegas, NV), while senior defensive lineman Steven Locke Jr. (Barstow, CA) recorded 10 tackles, including 1.5 for a loss.
Redlands finishes the 2013 campaign with a 7-3 record as the 2013 SCIAC Champions. Mary Hardin-Baylor remains undefeated at 11-0 and advances to the second round of the NCAA Championships to face Rowan University (NJ).