Ex-Blazer Kevin Russell finds home – and success – at Redlands

mwochnick@theolympian.comNovember 27, 2013 

Not even 24 hours after the University of Redlands’ first-round exit in the NCAA Division III football playoffs, Kevin Russell was quick to reflect on what he called “a great season.”

The 2011 Timberline High graduate and Redlands redshirt sophomore starting quarterback thanked his teammates and coaching staff.

“I wouldn’t be anything without the support of the guys here,” Russell said. “And the coaches taking a genuine look at me and trying to see what I can do.”

Last Saturday’s 35-7 loss to No. 2-ranked Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, Texas, ended the Bulldogs’ season at 7-3 – a season that started off 0-2. Yet with Russell earning the starting job in Week 3 after a positive performance in a backup role in a 35-14 loss at Pacific Lutheran on Sept. 21, he led Redlands to seven consecutive wins, an undefeated conference season, and its second NCAA playoff berth in three years.

“Being here and having an opportunity that I’ve been given has been great,” Russell said. “It’s big for this program to be in the playoffs again. It’s somewhat of a standard.”

This time a year ago, Russell was in limbo. He was a backup quarterback and punter at PLU, but a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder prematurely ended his sophomore season.

The injury didn’t require surgery, but took extensive rehabilitation and exercise. Looking to transfer to a school where he could contribute right away, Russell found Redlands, a school about an hour outside of Los Angeles at the base of the San Bernardino Mountains.

One of seven quarterbacks on the roster, Russell slowly climbed up the depth chart until finally reaching the top. In nine games, including eight consecutive starts, he threw for 1,433 yards and

12 touchdowns, and Redlands averaged 30 points and 390 yards of total offense a game with Russell as the starter.

It has been a goal reached by hard work.

“I had all this energy to focus into a direction, but I didn’t know where to focus,” Russell said. “All this energy built up and a passion to lead a team and find my home.”

 

DIVISION I SOCCER TALENT

 

Three Thurston County soccer players — Miguel Gonzalez, Josh Phillips and Abbey Bergquist — were honored by their respective Division I conferences as players of the year.

Gonzalez, a Yelm High graduate fresh off helping Seattle University to its first NCAA playoff appearance as a Division I school, was the Western Athletic Conference’s offensive MVP. She finished with 15 goals and five assists. The Redhawks’ season ended Sunday in a 4-2 loss to Washington in the second round of the NCAA tournament after Gonzalez scored both of SU’s goals in a 2-1 first-round win over Creighton.

Phillips, a Capital High grad, was honored by the West Coast Conference as its defensive MVP, helping Gonzaga to its first double-digit winning season (10) since 2000. He anchored a defense that allowed opponents an average of 0.95 goals a match.

Bergquist, a Tumwater High graduate and freshman midfielder for the women’s team at Portland State, was the Big Sky Conference’s newcomer of the year, starting all 19 matches for the Vikings and recorded two goals and two assists.

 

ELSEWHERE

Saint Martin’s men’s basketball team looks for its first official victory of the season at 2:30 p.m. Friday against Metro State at Western Washington in Bellingham. The Saints (0-4), who have averaged 65 points a game in four losses, have an exhibition win over The Evergreen State College. … The Saint Martin’s women, winners of three in a row, travel to Bellingham on Friday and Saturday for the Lynda Goodrich Classic. The Saints face Northwest at 5 p.m. Friday followed by Pacific Lutheran at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. Last Saturday, SMU held Northwest to 30 points, the fewest points allowed in the Saints’ Division II era. ... Rainier High graduate Kristen Schoenherr, a sophomore at Southern Oregon, was last week’s Cascade Collegiate Conference women’s basketball player of the week after breaking the 20-point mark twice in wins over Lewis-Clark State and Cal State San Marcos. She has scored in double figures in five of the Raiders’ six games.

Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 mwochnick@theolympian.com theolympian.com/southsoundsports

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