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Central: One More Until Perfect Season

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ST. GEORGE, Utah -- Senior quarterback Cole Morgan (Seattle/Ballard HS) threw for 217 yards, and senior kicker Garrett Rolsma (University Place/Curtis HS) totaled 11 points on three field goals and two PATs in helping second-ranked Central Washington clinch its fifth Great Northwest Athletic Conference football championship with a 23-9 win over Dixie State at Hansen Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

With the win, the Wildcats lock up their 32nd all-time football conference championship and improve to 10-0 on the season (5-0 GNAC). Dixie State suffered its first home loss of the season to fall to 4-6 overall (2-3 GNAC).

Morgan completed 17 of 27 passes and did not throw an interception as the Wildcats had just one turnover in the contest. He also scored a five-yard rushing touchdown on Central's opening possession of the third quarter, capping a brief drive that was sparked by senior Jerome Williams' (Seattle/Ballard HS) career-long 72-yard kickoff return that gave the Wildcats possession at the Dixie State 5. Two plays later, Morgan scored his first collegiate touchdown to extend Central's lead to 20-9.

Although they failed to score on their first possession, the Wildcats capitalized on a fumbled punt return by Dixie State and senior Buddy Wood (Chattaroy/Riverside HS) recovered deep in Red Storm territory. Senior Randall Eldridge (Lynnwood) then made quick work in getting Central on the board with three consecutive carries including a five-yard scoring surge.

Dixie State responded on its next series with a 31-yard field goal by Mike Langston that cut Central's lead to 7-3 with 5:08 left in the opening quarter.

Big-play passes from Morgan and a 28-yard run by senior Jerome Morris (Los Angeles, Calif./Jefferson HS) highlighted Central's next possession, but after getting to the Dixie State 15, the Wildcats were forced to settle for a 37-yard field goal by Rolsma to put them ahead 10-3 after the first quarter.

A 23-yard field goal by Rolsma with 8:56 left in the half accounted for the Wildcats' second quarter scoring. Central had six offensive plays inside the Red Storm 20 yard line but had to settle for Rolsma's three-pointer that extended the lead to 10 at that point.

Dixie State scored its lone touchdown of the game two series later, as Adam Wells caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from Judd Thompson, but Langston's ensuing extra-point attempt was blocked by Wood, and Central held onto a 13-9 lead, which it took into the locker room at the half.

Morgan scored the Wildcats' insurance touchdown for their only points of the third quarter, and Rolsma tacked on a 44-yard field goal with 8:15 left in the game to seal the victory for Central -- its 16th straight regular-season win and its 30th straight over a GNAC opponent.

Dixie State's only major scoring threat of the second half came after Morgan's touchdown. The Red Storm had a 40-yard pass from Thompson to Wells that took the ball to the Central 16, and after a five-yard run and a CWU penalty took the ball to the Wildcat six, two penalties sandwiched around a pair of incompletions forced Dixie State into a 33-yard field goal attempt by Langston. His kick attempt was blocked by Courtney Smith (Stockton, Calif./East Union HS), which kept the margin at 20-9 until Rolsma's fourth-quarter field goal.

Central Washington finished with a 381-234 advantage in total offense, and held an opponent to negative rushing yards (minus-22) for the third time this season. The Wildcats added 164 rushing yards to their 217 through the air, and they logged 136 return yards while holding onto the football for more than 37 minutes -- a season-high in that department.

Eldridge (69 yards) and Morris (65 yards) led Central's rushing attack, while senior Johnny Spevak (Edgewood/Puyallup HS) was once again the Wildcats' top receiver for receptions with six for 65 yards. Senior Reggie Westmoreland (Stockton, Calif./Edison HS) finished as Central's leader in receiving yards with 82, keyed by a 62-yard first-quarter reception. Williams netted 129 all-purpose yards to lead all players.

Wood, and juniors Loa Madon (Vista, Calif.) and Adam Bighill (Montesano) all had six tackles to tie for the Wildcats' team lead in that department. Bighill and Eugene Germany (Pomona, Calif.) had 2 1/2 tackles for loss each, as Central had 11 total tackles for loss including three quarterback sacks.

Dixie State was led by the 256 passing yards of Thompson, who completed 20 of 44 attempts with one touchdown. Langston averaged 48.5 yards per punt on eight punts for the Red Storm, and four Dixie State players had 10 or more tackles in the game. Keauntea Bankhead was credited with 13 stops, while Justin Ence and Micah Harward had 11 each.

Central Washington will look to close out its undefeated regular season and secure a first-round bye in the NCAA Division II playoffs next week as it visits Western Oregon (5-4, 3-2 GNAC) for a 1 p.m. kickoff at McArthur Field.

QUICK NOTES: Central's third-quarter scoring dominance this season continued Saturday as the Wildcats held Dixie State scoreless in the third period. CWU has now outscored opponents by a 73-10 count in the third quarter this season ... For the time being, Rolsma moved ahead of Spevak in the CWU record books for career scoring. His 11 points on Saturday give him 317 for his career, three ahead of Spevak, who had broken the previous record last week against Humboldt State ... Rolsma had three field goals in a game for the third time this year and the fifth time in his career. He is now 51 for 66 in career field goal tries while also extending his consecutive PAT streak to 99 with two more extra points against Dixie State ... Central failed to score a passing touchdown for the second time this season ... With two more blocked kicks, the Wildcats have now blocked 10 kicks (four punts, three field goals, three PAT) this season ... Wood tied his own GNAC record with his fifth fumble recovery of the season against Dixie State. No other player in the conference has more than one in 2009 ... Spevak inched his way closer to the NCAA Division II record for career receptions, upping his total to 307. He needs 16 in next week's game and/or in any subsequent playoff games to tie the record of 323 by Clarence Coleman of Ferris State (Mich.) from 1998-2001 ... Spevak is now second in CWU history for all-purpose yards with 4,422 ... Sophomore Mike Reno (Ellensburg/Kittitas HS) made his second career start at nose tackle against Dixie State.
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