Wildcats Win Their 6th Straight, Move to 7-1
ELLENSBURG, Wash. -- Central Washington linebackers Buddy Wood (Chattaroy, Wash./Riverside HS) and Anthony Le (Lacey, Wash./Timberline HS) finished with career-highs of 16 and 15 tackles, respectively, to help lead the Wildcats to a 27-16 North Central Conference football victory over visiting Augustana (S.D.) on Saturday afternoon at Tomlinson Stadium.
The win by the Wildcats was their sixth straight, improving the NCAA Division II Northwest Region's fourth-ranked team to 7-1 overall and 5-1 in NCC play. Augustana fell to 3-7 overall and 1-6 in NCC action.
Central Washington's defense was the storyline again on Saturday, as the Wildcats overcame a season-low offensive total of just 350 yards and held Augustana to 286 yards of offense. Central's defense scored first, as junior Mitch Reffett (Moses Lake, Wash.) sacked Daniel Millus, forcing a fumble. Senior linebacker Bret Stray (Sammamish, Wash./Skyline HS) scooped up the loose football and took it 23 yards into the end zone for his first collegiate touchdown and a 7-0 Wildcat lead.
The Wildcat defense then held the Vikings to just a field goal after Augustana had driven 64 yards on 11 plays over the next 5:49. Ryan Grossman was successful from 24 yards out to put the visitors on the scoreboard at 7-3 late in the first quarter.
Central did not score on any of its next five possessions, resulting in four punts and a turnover on downs. However, the Wildcats' defense similarly held Augustana on its next five series, forcing four punts and securing a fumble recovery on the Vikings' first full possession in the second quarter. Sophomore Jerome Williams (Seattle, Wash./Ballard HS) forced Jeremy Huber to fumble in Central territory, and junior Jon Rogers (North Pole, Alaska/Ben Eielson HS) recovered to stop the Viking drive.
CWU senior running back Johnny Lopez (Federal Way, Wash./John F. Kennedy HS) finally added to the Wildcat lead late in the half. After Central had pinned Augustana deep in its own territory and forced the Vikings into a punt, after which the Wildcats gained possession at the Augie 32, the offense needed just three plays to score. Lopez ran it in from one yard out for his 10th touchdown of the season. Garrett Rolsma's (University Place, Wash./Curtis HS) extra point made it a 14-3 Wildcat advantage at the half.
On the opening drive of the second half, Central marched 57 yards down the field on 10 plays, with senior fullback Durrell Moss (Orange, Calif.) catching a four-yard pass from junior quarterback Mike Reilly (Kalispell, Mont./Flathead HS) at the 11:17 mark to give the Wildcats a 20-3 edge. Rolsma's extra point sailed wide.
Augustana finally scored once again with 1:41 left in the third quarter as Huber, who led all players with 99 yards rushing from his fullback position, scored from seven yards out. The Vikings capitalized on a rare Central Washington turnover, as Lopez fumbled at the Wildcat 22.
Each team scored one final time in the fourth quarter. Reilly scored his first rushing touchdown of the year to cap the Wildcats' longest scoring drive of the day -- 11 plays for 60 yards and 3:46 of the clock. Augustana fought right back with a quick scoring drive of its own, as Huber broke multiple tackles and scored from 15 yards out to make it a two-possession game. However, Grossman's extra point failed and neither team scored the rest of the way.
The Wildcat defense finished off the victory on Augustana's last two possessions of the game, as senior Chris Scrupps (Odessa, Wash.) recovered a fumble with just under nine minutes left and Central forced the Vikings into a three-and-out on their last sequence of the contest. CWU then held the ball for the final 6:25 of the game, gaining three first downs including two third-down passes and a fourth-down pass from Reilly.
Each team finished with 17 first downs in a penalty-filled contest, as the two teams were whistled for a combined 23 penalties and 180 yards. Central had the advantage in total offense yet again, keeping the Vikings under 300 yards in offense.
Reilly broke the 200-yard passing mark for the 25th time in 29 career appearances, throwing for 220 yards on 18 of 33. Lopez had a season-high 31 carries for 88 yards and a touchdown, while Reilly also had a solid rushing game with 45 yards on eight carries. Seven different players had at least one reception for the Wildcats, with Moss leading the way with four catches and 47 yards. Sophomore Johnny Spevak (Edgewood, Wash./Puyallup HS), among the North Central Conference leaders in receiving, was held to just three catches for 43 yards.
On defense, Wood and Le combined for 31 tackles, while Reffett also had a career-high with eight stops. Reffett had 2.5 tackles for loss, including 1.5 sacks as Central stopped Augustana quarterbacks behind the line of scrimmage on three occasions.
Augustana totaled 146 rushing yards and 140 passing yards. Huber and Joe Clark had 18 carries apiece, while Tyler Schulte was the Vikings' third-leading rusher with 10 carries for 10 yards. Schulte also played most of the game at quarterback, completing 12 of 25 passes for 135 yards.
Central Washington will hit the road for the final time of the 2007 regular season next Saturday (Nov. 3), visiting Minnesota State (4-5, 2-4 NCC) with a noon (CDT) kickoff slated at Blakeslee Stadium in Mankato, Minn. The Wildcats will then wrap up the regular season in two weeks, hosting conference leader and the Northwest Region's top-ranked team, Nebraska-Omaha, on Nov. 10.