Wildcats Win Shootout, 45-40, Over 22nd-Ranked Coyotes
ELLENSBURG, Wash. -- Central Washington quarterback Mike Reilly (Kalispell, Mont./Flathead HS) threw for a career-high 399 yards, and the Wildcats combined with South Dakota for a North Central Conference-record 1,170 yards of total offense as CWU won a shootout, 45-40, over the 22nd-ranked Coyotes on Saturday afternoon at Tomlinson Stadium.
The win was the third straight for Central, improving them to 4-1 overall and 3-1 in NCC play. South Dakota lost its second straight contest to fall to 3-3 overall (2-1 NCC).
Reilly completed 24 of 34 passes and came within one yard of the 400 mark for the first time in his career. He did not throw an interception and completed four passes for four touchdowns, including two to sophomore Johnny Spevak (Edgewood, Wash./Puyallup HS). Spevak had 10 catches for a career-high 156 yards.
Nearly 3,000 fans witnessed the most prolific offensive game in the history of the North Central Conference. South Dakota finished with 644 yards, including 386 on the ground courtesy three ball-carriers. Amos Allen ran for 247 yards and three touchdowns for the Coyotes, while quarterback Noah Shepard, who also threw for 258 yards and two scores, ran for 105 yards on 17 carries.
Each team scored in the opening quarter, with the Wildcats drawing first blood. South Dakota had had the first scoring opportunity on its opening drive, but CWU senior Chris Hemphill (Gardena, Calif./Junipero Serra HS) intercepted Shepard's pass after USD had the ball at the Wildcats' eight-yard line. Central came back on its first possession, driving 80 yards on just five plays in 1:55, with Reilly throwing a 27-yard TD pass to Spevak.
The Coyotes responded on their next drive, chewing up more than 6 1/2 minutes of clock and using 15 plays to go 77 yards. Allen scored the first of his three touchdowns on a three-yard carry to tie the game at 7-7.
Allen then gave South Dakota its final lead of the game early in the second quarter, scampering 89 yards on the Coyotes' first play from scrimmage after holding Central on a fourth-and-one play at the USD 11.
Reilly and the Wildcats' air attack then went to work on its next two drives. The junior found senior Chris Rohrbach (Edmonds, Wash./Meadowdale HS) on a 35-yard scoring play at the 8:49 mark to tie the game, and then connected with running back Johnny Lopez (Federal Way, Wash./John F. Kennedy HS) on a 30-yard pass play late in the half to put Central in front, 21-14. South Dakota countered with its hurry-up offense, capitalizing with a 35-yard Frank Leibfarth field goal with 11 seconds to go to make it a 21-17 halftime count.
Central Washington controlled the third quarter, extending its lead to 31-17. Reilly and Spevak hooked up on a nine-yard strike just 1:13 into the period, and sophomore Garrett Rolsma (University Place, Wash./Curtis HS) added a 29-yard field goal -- his seventh straight three-point conversion of the season.
South Dakota stormed back late in the third and early in the fourth quarter. Allen scored from two yards out on the second play of the fourth, and Leibfarth later added a 25-yard field goal to cut the Coyotes' deficit to four at 31-27. Central countered with a 10-yard touchdown run by Lopez.
The two teams traded blows in the final six minutes. South Dakota scored on a seven-yard pass from Shepard to Brooks Little at the 5:40 mark, but an ensuing two-point conversion failed to keep it at a five-point Wildcat lead (38-33). Central then scored its final points of the game its next time down the field, as the elusive Lopez kept his balance after nearly being tackled short of the end zone before scoring from six yards out.
Staring at a 12-point deficit, the Coyotes traversed down the field with 14 offensive plays, covering 73 yards. Shepard and Dan Skelly connected on a five-yard pass with 40 seconds to go, and Leibfarth's extra point made it a 45-40 count. However, South Dakota's ensuing on-side kick attempt was recovered by Central's Jared Bronson (Kent, Wash./Thomas Jefferson HS), ruining any last-minute final comeback by the Coyotes. Central took a knee twice and sealed the victory.
For the first time this season, Central Washington had a deficit in time of possession. The Wildcats had the ball for just 23:28 and, despite being outgained 644-526 in total offensive yards, came away with the five-point win.
Nearly lost among the offensive effort on Saturday was the performance of multiple Central Washington defenders -- namely freshman Adam Bighill (Montesano, Wash.) and sophomore Buddy Wood (Chattaroy, Wash./Riverside HS). Both players had career-highs for tackles with 16 and 15, respectively, with Bighill adding two pass break-ups and a blocked punt in his second collegiate start. Hemphill and Nate Pirak (Edmonds, Wash./Meadowdale HS) had 12 and 11 tackles, respectively.
Central Washington travels to Western Oregon for its final non-conference game of the season next Saturday (Oct. 13) at Monmouth, Ore. The Wildcats will then return to North Central Conference action on Oct. 20 with the fifth annual Battle in Seattle.