The Redmond football team gave the homecoming crowd plenty to cheer about and coach Mike Plushcke was finally able to silence his doubters after the Mustangs pounded Garfield, 49-7, in 4A Kingco Crest Division matchup last Friday night.
In a matchup between two 0-6 teams, Redmond dominated the game and the convincing win helped take some of the bitterness out of a sour season.
“It’s not really what we expected coming into the season, but we’ve done a good job of staying positive, working hard at practices and chipping away,” said senior quarterback David Gilbertson. “And we finally got one.”
Gilbertson connected with wide receiver Cameron Sandquist on a nice fade route for a 75-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage, but the play was called back to the 20 on a penalty.
Sophomore running back Michael Conforto and Sean Shewey, an emerging running threat for the Mustangs, each scored two touchdowns, and Gilbertson also ran one in.
“It was a great quarterback draw where he made a couple athletic moves and got himself 20 yards in the house,” Pluschke said. “You gotta give (our defense) a lot of credit because they really shut down everything Garfield was trying to do offensively.”
Special teams, which was a problem early in the season, was also clicking for the Mustangs. The Bulldogs were held inside the 20-yard line four times on kickoffs, forcing the Bulldogs to go the distance and giving Redmond better field position on punts and turnovers.
Gilbertson completed 10 of 16 passes for 180 yards and rushed three times for 32 yards. Shewey became the first Mustang to break 100 yards this season, tearing up Garfield for 116 yards.
“Sean Shewey and the run game was really a nice surprise,” Pluschke said. “His play is really enthusiastic, he’s really the energy behind our team, that positive impact.”
Wide receiver Cameron Sandquist had a great night on both sides of the ball, with six receptions for 64 yards to go along with seven tackles on defense.
“Since John Martino’s departure with his injury, Cameron’s been our go-to guy on offense,” said Pluschke of his talented receiver.
Redmond’s imposing defensive line, which averages over 270 pounds, wreaked havoc all game. The Bulldogs managed just 138 total yards, while Redmond’s offense racked up 420 total yards, including 240 on the ground.
“We knew we’d be able to run the ball,” Gilbertson said. “That was one of our big strengths, and it complimented everything else our wide receivers and offensive line was doing. They did a great job.”
With the win, Redmond improved to 1-4 in the Crest Division and 1-6 overall, while Garfield remains the only winless team in 4A Kingco.
BATTLE WITH THE BEST
Although Redmond has struggled this season, the Mustangs play in one of the toughest conferences in the state, which features top-ranked Skyline, the Mustangs’ next opponent. Overall, Pluschke has been happy with his team’s effort this season.
“Every time we step on the field, we’re expecting to play a high level of competition,” said the fifth-year head coach. “Our league is paramount — it’s the pinnacle of high school football right now from top to bottom, there’s a lot of good, talented teams.”
Pluschke says that his team’s struggles to post wins this year is also due in part to a number of factors, namely bad luck and lack of depth.
“Unfortunately our inexperience, our youth, and our untimely luck in most situations — even when things go well, there’s been something following us with an unlucky situation right away,” Pluschke noted. “We’ve fallen on some hard times with our luck, and we’ve made it difficult for ourselves with our numbers and attrition through the last couple years.”
Pluschke, who has been around the game of football nearly his entire life, said it has been hard, at times, to watch his players work their hearts out during practice and games and then have nothing to show for in the win column.
“That’s been one of the toughest parts about the whole season,” Pluschke said. “We’ve got a lot of guys that are playing their heart and soul into the game, and I respect the heck out of those guys for doing so. It is hard to have to deal with the critics, the people that ask, ‘Are you ever going to win?’ and things like that.
“But at the same time, you look at the kids come out and practice hard and play hard every day. They’ve really got tremendous courage and tremendous heart.”
The Mustangs play at top-ranked Skyline (4-0, 7-0), which has been ranked as high as No. 4 in the nation, on Friday before finishing up the season in next week’s league-crossover game, which an opponent has to be determined.
Despite being a heavy underdog, Pluschke said he feels optimistic that his team is close to being able to break through and surprise a great football team like the Spartans.
“We still have two more games to play, and we’re expecting to win both those games,” he said. “With Skyline coming up, we know they’re looking forward to their big game on ESPN, and hope we’re going to be a team that they look over and we play hard.”