Central Washington Returns to Division II Football Playoffs - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Central Washington Returns to Division II Football Playoffs

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- The Central Washington University football team, which won the final six games of the 2008 regular season and posted an undefeated record against NCAA Division II opponents, is returning to the NCAA Division II Football Championship playoffs, the NCAA announced Sunday.

The Wildcats are the number five seed in the Super Regional Four and will open the playoffs at fourth-seeded West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas, on Saturday, Nov. 15, with a tentative start time of 1 p.m. Central Standard Time (11 a.m. PST) at Kimbrough Memorial Stadium (capacity 20,000).

Central has posted its second consecutive 10-win season, entering the playoffs with a 10-1 overall record including 9-0 against Division II opponents. The Wildcats' only loss of the year was a last-second defeat at Division I-Football Championship Subdivision member Montana on Sept. 27, and Central posted a perfect 8-0 record in Great Northwest Athletic Conference play to claim its fourth league title in the six-year history of the conference.

"Being selected for the Division II playoffs is very exciting for our program," first-year head coach Blaine Bennett said. "We knew coming into this season that we were in perhaps the toughest region in the country, and that we would probably need to go 10-1 to get into the playoffs, and we were able to do that."

Central Washington is looking to make an extensive run in the NCAA Division II playoffs as it did last season, when the then-fourth-seeded Wildcats won their first two postseason games before suffering a national quarterfinal loss to Grand Valley State (Mich.). Overall, Central has a 2-2 record in two previous NCAA Division II postseason appearances.

The Wildcats' opening round opponent, West Texas A&M, is also 10-1 entering the postseason. The Buffaloes, who play in the South Division of the Lone Star Conference, are coming off a convincing 51-0 win over then regionally sixth-ranked Tarleton State (Texas) on Saturday. West Texas' only loss of the season was a 52-35 home defeat against the Super Regional Four's top-seeded team, Abilene Christian (11-0).

"West Texas has a high-powered offense with a good ability to throw the football and put up a lot of points," Bennett explained. "Their style of play is very similar to ours, so it should be a very exciting matchup."

Central Washington and West Texas faced two common opponents this season -- Mesa State (Colo.) and Azusa Pacific (Calif.). The Wildcats defeated Mesa State 48-14 at home and 36-6 at Azusa Pacific, while the Buffaloes edged out Mesa on the road in the season opener, 23-20, and routed Azusa Pacific 75-14 at home.

The meeting between Central Washington and West Texas will be the first-ever football showdown between the two schools. The winner of the first round game will travel to Abilene Christian for a second-round contest on Nov. 22.

Twenty-four teams -- six from each of four "super regions" -- qualified for the NCAA Division II championship field. First round games, involving seeds three through six, will be played this next Saturday, Nov. 15. The other first round game in the Super Regional Four involves sixth-seed Nebraska-Omaha (8-3) and third-seed Pittsburg State (10-1). Abilene Christian and second-seeded Northwest Missouri State (10-1) received first-round byes.

Central Washington has an all-time postseason record of 12-10-1, including the 1995 NAIA Division II National co-Championship. The Wildcats have played one previous postseason game in the state of Texas, having defeated Hardin-Simmons University in the 1995 NAIA Division II national quarterfinals, 40-20.

Information on travel packages for CWU fans will be made available by Tuesday as travel details are finalized.