Coach Mike Maynard has scheduled the likes of Colorado College and Puget Sound in the past, but he says those schools no longer want to play Redlands. So he has had to search for other opponents. This year’s slate included Whitworth, Trinity (Texas) and Chapman, the first two of which are nationally ranked. “It’s tough opening with teams like that, but hopefully in the end it will pay off,” Maynard said. “What you really want is to be ready for conference play, and those games helped expose what we needed to work on.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE The Bulldogs are coming off a bye which Maynard says came at an opportune time. His team is as healthy as it has been all season, thanks to five days off from full-contact practices. Senior middle linebacker and team captain Nick Steele probably could not have played last week if the Bulldogs had a game, but should be able to return tonight. He has been plagued by neck and shoulder problems that date back two years and was sidelined two weeks ago in the win over Chapman. Steele’s return is also big because his backup, Alex Aldrich, re-injured an already surgically repaired knee and is out for the season. “He (Steele) is such a key to everything we do on defense,” Maynard said. “It is very important to have him in there. It is just something that flares up.” Maynard scouted La Verne’s SCIAC opener last week against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps and was impressed. The Leopards, coached by Don Morel, have not managed a winning record in conference play since 1999, but loom as a formidable threat to favorite Occidental this year. The Leopards are led by quarterback Brian Guerrero, the SCIAC male athlete of the week two weeks ago who leads the conference in most passing categories. “They’re a pass-first offense. He (Guerrero) has just been lighting it up,” Maynard said. “He doesn’t look as mobile as he has been in the past, but he is a very dangerous passer. We’re going to have to get a pass rush, so he doesn’t have all day back there.” Other local teams will also be in action. Victor Valley (1-4) has a good shot at halting its four-game losing streak as it entertains winless Antelope Valley (0-5) in Foothill Conference action at 1 p.m., in Victorville. Meanwhile, San Bernardino Valley College (2-2, 1-1) treks to San Diego Mesa (2-2) for a 5 p.m. showdown. Chaffey hosts defending champion Grossmont, which slipped by SBVC last week 20-17. Riverside Community College (3-2) is idle this week. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! The University of Redlands is about to find out just how important a tough preseason schedule can be. The Bulldogs (1-2) open Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play at 7 tonight at Ted Runner Stadium. A resurgent La Verne (3-1, 1-0) will provide the opposition.