REDLANDS, Calif. – It has always been a rivalry. It has always been a competitive environment when the teams meet. It has always been a battle. Tonight was no different. No. 8 Cal Lutheran football stormed out to a 14-0 lead and never trailed en route to a 45-35 victory, claiming the inaugural Smudge Pot and defeating Redlands for the fifth consecutive meeting.
Cal Lutheran won the toss, deferred to the second half and held Redlands to a three-and-out on the first possession. It was not all that easy tonight, though.
Early jitters were apparent on both sides of the field. On the first offensive drive for CLU, a fumble, that CLU recovered, was followed by a UR interception. The Kingsmen then quickly earned the ball back on a Bulldogs fumble, recovered by Cal Lutheran.
CLU drove the ball 75 yards down the field, culminating with a 14-yard touchdown reception by Eric Rogers,who caught the ball from Kevin Ramay at the five yard line and dodged defenders to dive into the end zone for the first scoring play of the game.
After again forcing a Bulldogs punt, it took CLU just one play to score. The Kingsmen used some trickery when Frankie Jones took the handoff and proceeded to throw a 54 yard touchdown pass to Ryan Zirbel, giving the visiting squad a 14-0 lead.
The Cal Lutheran defense continued to control the Bulldogs, holding them scoreless in the first quarter. As time expired in the period, Redlands drove to the CLU one yard line, but a goal-line stand denied UR of any points on the possession when the teams swapped sides of the field to start the second.
Redlands, however, would strike first in the second stanza with a 16-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Chad Hurst to Peter Adams to cut the advantage in half.
When Ramay went down with an injury Zach Shultis stepped right in. The senior had already kicked two PATs, proving he could do a little bit of everything.
He promptly handed the ball to Rogers, who scurried 10 yards for his second TD of the game at the 6:12 mark of the second quarter. Shultis finished it off to put the Kingsmen up 21-7.
Just over two minutes later, Vincent Minor returned a punt 43 yards for a touchdown, pushing the lead to 28-7, again capped off with a Shultis kick for the extra point.
Redlands would strike one more time in the half on a three yard pass, which put the score at 28-14 entering the locker rooms.
After the break the teams exchanged field goals with David Sandler knocking down a 21-yard FG before UR’s Kevin Grady connected for a 42-yarder to make it 31-17 in favor of the Kingsmen. Redlands would further close the gap on another pair of touchdowns, missing one PAT, to make it 31-29 entering the final quarter.
Just before time ran out in the third Shultis connected with a diving Rogers for a 46-yard over the shoulder catch. The CLU sideline and stands, full of fans, breathed a collective sigh of relief when CLU pulled off another trick play when Dontaie Ferguson connected with Rogers for a three-yard TD pass, which Shultis finished with a kick to add to the lead at 38-29.
On the ensuing Bulldogs possession, Broc Galbreth picked off Hurst at the CLU-41 yard line. The drive ended with a 52-yard completion from Shultis to Jones to put the score at 45-29.
A late UR score would pull the teams within 10 at 45-35, but a solid defensive stand at the end of the game kept the Bulldogs from making things any closer. CLU shut down UR in the red zone for the only time of the game on that drive, when it counted most.
Redlands possessed the ball slightly longer, 30:39, and racked up a few more offensive yards, 504, than Cal Lutheran (473), but it was the Kingsmen who finished on top.
Four different CLU quarterbacks threw a TD pass in the game and combined to go 17-for-30. Shultis was 12-for-19 passing for 151 yards off the bench, while converting 6-for-6 on extra point attempts. Rogers was the favorite target of the Kingsmen gunslingers catching eight passes for 107 yards, despite limited playing time in the second half.
Romello Goodman paced the Kingsmen ground attack with 35 carries for 182 yards.
The defense looked to Chris Cabrera who made 14 total stops while Rian Younker finished with 10 as the only other player in the game with double figures. Each had five solo tackles. Ferguson posted a game-high six solo stops as he and James Emma finished with nine apiece. Emma forced a fumble and had one of four quarterback hurries in the game. Ferguson broke up a pair of plays. Steven Keezer was responsible for the only sack of the game, pushing UR back eight yards.
Sean Bellotti pinned UR deep in their own territory on kickoffs with four touchbacks in the game. Sandler punted five times for 178 yards with his longest boot a 49 yarder.
Following the game the captains of each squad met at mid field where UR Director of Athletics, Jeff Martinez, presented the Smudge Pot to the Kingsmen.
Cal Lutheran (3-1, 2-0 SCIAC) will be on the road again next weekend when they travel to Claremont, Calif. to play the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Stags on Saturday, Oct. 14 at 7:00 p.m.
Box Score: CLU 45, UR 35