Noah Widgins' game-winning touchdown against Chapman on Oct. 23 was a highlight for the University of Redlands football team.

A magical season for the University of Redlands football team ended Saturday, Nov. 20.

The Bulldogs fell 44-10 to Linfield College in McMinnville, Ore. The setback came in an NCAA Division III opening-round game.

Linfield handed Redlands its only other defeat this season, 51-10 on Sept. 18 at Redlands’ Ted Runner Stadium.

“I thought we improved quite a bit from that first game,” said Redlands interim coach and Yucaipa resident Jim Good. “We played well on defense in the first half. We did some good things on offense too but didn’t finish some drives.”

Linfield entered the game ranked No. 6 in the nation in DIII. Redlands was ranked 21st after going 8-1 during the regular season and 6-0 in Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play.

Redlands held the high-powered Wildcats scoreless in the first quarter, but got outscored 16-3 in the second stanza. An early 26-yard field goal by the Bulldogs’ Vicente Garcia of Fontana gave Redlands its only lead of the day, 3-0.

Two Wildcat touchdowns and a safety before halftime were all the points Linfield really needed.

The Bulldogs were held to 200 yards of offense, 95 through the air and 105 rushing.

Bulldog special teams gave Redlands a lift in the fourth quarter as Joseph Rosales of Goodyear, Arizona recovered a fumbled punt by the Wildcats. Bulldog quarterback Nathan Martinez, a Yucaipa High grad, then hit Evan Aguon from San Diego for six yards before Martinez used his legs to score from 8 yards out for the Bulldogs’ only touchdown.

Martinez completed 16-for-31 passes with two interceptions. Kai Thompson out of Murrieta Mesa High rushed for 59 yards to pace the Bulldog ground attack.

Kaleb Hatten from Modesto led Redlands’ receivers with two catches for 23 yards. Khory Day from Fresno added five catches for 22 yards.

Garcia had an excellent day punting, averaging 40.3 yards per kick.

Jace Tessaro from Modesto and Jacob Harrold from Lake Havasu City, Ariz., paced the Bulldog defense with seven tackles apiece. Scott Tinsely from Santa Cruz County added six tackles for Redlands and Luke Purcella from University Place, Wash., contributed five tackles.

Finally, defensive back Jadin Michaels of Palm Springs had two pass break-ups.

The loss ended an odyssey for the Redlands program that included losing former veteran coach Mike Maynard due to a social-media imbroglio, losing the 2020 season due to the coronavirus pandemic, and recovering from the first blowout loss to Linfield to hammer out six consecutive wins and win the SCIAC title.

Redlands’ inspiring run was highlighted by the Bulldogs’ dramatic 28-24 victory against powerful Chapman of Orange. Redlands looked as dead as a gravestone in that homecoming game, trailing 14-0 in the first quarter before rallying.

Speaking on the telephone just days from Thanksgiving, Good expressed gratitude to many.

“Our [coaching] staff was phenomenal,” he said. “The time they invested in preparation and time away from their families – I can’t thank them enough. I’m thankful for so many things. It was a great experience to see the cohesion between coaches and players. This was as tight-knit of a team as I’ve been a part of.

“Now that we’re done, it will be our challenge to match or improve on what we did this year. We really had a strong foundation with the fourth- and fifth-year players we had on this team.”

The Bulldogs’ conference title was their 32nd in an illustrious football history. That legacy dates to 1910 when coach RL Grover guided the Bulldogs to a 1-4 season. Redlands also has a fascinating postseason history, including a 33-32 loss to NCAA Division I opponent Hawaii in the Pineapple Bowl in Honolulu in January of 1948. That game capped the 1947 season.

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