CWU football preps for home-opener under the lights

Hanson Lee, Sports Editor

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School is in session and Wildcat Football is already well underway for the 2018 calendar year. The Wildcats are 3-1 on the season thus far and remain undefeated within the GNAC, with their only loss coming from week one when they faced off against Division I opponent Eastern Washington University.

“The first game was a little bit of a growing pain against Eastern Washington,” said head coach Ian Shoemaker. “After that we’ve started to put together three decent games and are feeling good going into the home-opener.”

Last season, the Wildcats turned a lot of heads with an undefeated run of 11 straight wins before losing an elimination game to Texas A&M Commerce in what was the NCAA Division II Super Region 4 football semi-finals playoffs.

With week five on the horizon, the Wildcats are looking to prepare for their first official home game of the season under the lights on Saturday, Sept. 29. The team will welcome the West Texas A&M University Buffaloes in what will be the team’s inaugural game at the newly renovated Tomlinson Stadium.

“Being able to play on the turf and play under the lights, we hope it’s a great atmosphere for the fans, the band and the student body,” Shoemaker said. “We think it’s a great opportunity to really showcase our team and our players.”

With three fast wins the past three weeks, the team most recently hit the road to face off against GNAC opponent Simon Fraser University in what was a 63-10 blowout by the Wildcats. Now at home, Shoemaker has his sights set high for the team’s performance this Saturday.

“We talk about making sure that we are holding ourselves together… each week preparing at a high level to win and be 1-0 on the weekend,” Shoemaker said. “We’ve had some good success running the ball over the past couple weekends and the defense is improving and getting more comfortable with the new defensive scheme.”

Senior starting quarterback Reilly Hennessey, in his final season with CWU, leads the offensive charge for the Wildcats and  is looking to spark a new level of success for the team. In preparation for West Texas A&M this Saturday, Hennessey said that their main focus for their upcoming home-opener boils down to improving efficiency and execution.

“We’re making strides each week both offensively and defensively,” Hennessey said. “I’m really happy with where this team is going.”

Hennessey stressed that the most important thing for the team going into this weekend is is for everyone to do their job correctly and stay on the same page. As for himself, Hennessey emphasized that he needs to keep it simple and do a better job of continuing to get his teammates involved out on the field.

“It’s always nice when you can learn and grow through wins,” Hennessey said. “When we do that, we feel like we can truly compete with anybody.”

With the Tomlinson Stadium renovations adding a whole new dynamic to gameday for CWU Football, a build up of anticipation regarding the new stadium features may be an understatement for the community and football players alike.

“I think the night atmosphere for students and for the players as well adds another level of excitement,” Hennessey said. “I think the turf is awesome.”

On the defensive side of the ball, junior linebacker Tevin Gray is a key component for the Wildcat defense, having racked up a total of 17 tackles to go along with two sacks on the year thus far. Gray expressed that one of the main focuses for the defense in preparation for Saturday night’s festivities has to do with defensive execution and being in the right place at the right time, so that the right play can be made.

“Execution wise, we’re not always in the right spot,” Gray said. “We need to work on not focusing on the product, we need to focus on the process.”

With some new faces on the Wildcat defense and the implementation of new defensive coordinator Ivan Cordova, the defense still boasts a solid amount of returners from last season. Gray said that this aspect on the defensive end has had a positive impact on the team’s defensive chemistry, which he expects will continue to grow throughout the remainder of the season.

“I think we’re coming along as a team, as a defense for sure,” Gray said. “We’re getting better everyday.”