Wildcats and Cougars square off in Tomlinson

Chance Weeks-Williams, Sports Editor

Coming off a blowout win against Simon Fraser, the Wildcats football team will return to Tomlinson stadium this Saturday, with their sights on Azusa Pacific. This game will be the second Great Northwest Athletic Conference game for the Wildcats, and they look to keep the No. 1 spot in the GNAC standings.

This will mark the 10th time these two teams have played each other. Central currently leads the series with six wins and three losses. When the Wildcats and Cougars squared off last year Azusa Pacific defeated Central 24-17.

IN THE CLEAR - Austin Pernell returns the first of two blocked punts the Wildcats had for touchdowns against Simon Fraser University (B.C.) in the inaugural Battle of the Border
CWU Athletics
IN THE CLEAR – Austin Pernell returns the first of two blocked punts the Wildcats had for touchdowns against Simon Fraser University (B.C.) in the inaugural Battle of the Border

Entering the game, Central boasts the second ranked total offense, which is also the No. 1 ranked scoring offense in the GNAC. Sophomore quarterback Jake Nelson is second in the GNAC for total offense with 1202 total yards, and third in offensive touchdowns with eight (seven passing, one rushing).

“We’re scoring a lot and its definitely fun,” Nelson said, “We need to clean up the turnovers and we’ll be even better”

On the receiving end, senior receiver Greg Logan leads the GNAC in receptions (30), receptions per game (7), receiving yards (456) and receiving yards per game (114).

Junior running back Jordan Todd is currently tied for first in the GNAC for scoring out of wide receivers and running backs with seven total touchdowns.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Wildcats are ranked second in the GNAC, allowing 13 touchdowns in the season. Junior defensive lineman Tovar Sanchez has been dominant in the trenches for the Wildcats, as he leads the GNAC in sacks with five sacks and one assisted sack. This week the wildcats will have to stop the GNAC’s leading rusher.

“ We have to stay fundamentally sound and do everything with full force.” Sanchez said. “We’re doing good, but we have room to improve.

The Wildcats are currently leading the GNAC in interceptions with nine, led by freshman linebacker Kevin Haynes, junior defensive back DeAndre Baines and frosh Defensive back Deion Stell with two each. Baines, Stell, and soph. Matt Miller each have an interception returned for a touchdown

Leading the team in tackles for the Wildcats is junior linebacker Mitch Haldane with 35 total tackles, which is second best in the GNAC. Haldane has also tacked on two sacks.

“I don’t think we’re done growing yet [defensively], I don’t think we’re done learning yet,” Head Coach Ian Shoemaker said.. “The defense has kept us in some games.”

Azusa Pacific (3-1 overall) has yet to play in a GNAC game this season, and is coming off a huge road win against Dixie State.

The Azusa Pacific Cougars are coming into the game with the No. 1 rushing attack in the GNAC averaging 230 yards per game, 77 more yards per game than the Wildcats are averaging.

Senior running back Terrell Watson has seven rushing touchdowns this season, which is tied for first in the GNAC.

“He’s an NFL type talent people are saying,” Shoemaker said. “He’s a load, he’s a big kid he’s going to be 6’2, 240 pounds and he’s pretty nimble for that size.”

Watson is the returning GNAC leading rushing champion and is currently 9th in the country in rushing yards.

“We need to make sure we fill all the gaps, be assignment sound and tackle.” Shoemaker said. “Getting him [Watson] before he gets started is ideal”

Sophomore quarterback Chad Jeffries has added three rushing touchdowns of his own. Jeffries is sixth in the GNAC for total offensive yards with 696. Central will need a big game from the defensive line to rush Jeffries and keep him off balanced.

“Every time a quarterback has to rush a throw there is a better chance of an interception.” Shoemaker said.

Defensively, Azusa Pacific is currently ranked third in the conference, with the No. 1 pass defense allowing 4.8 yards per attempt. They are tied for second in the GNAC with Central, and Dixie State for passing touchdowns allowed with seven.

The Cougars are currently second in the GNAC in scoring allowing an average of 25 points per game and have allowed 12 touchdowns this season.

Junior defensive end Matthew Hackett leads the Cougars in sacks with three and a half. Linebacker, Steven Fanua is currently 7th in the GNAC for tackles.

Central’s special teams will look to build on their momentum after returning two consecutive blocked punts for touchdowns against Simon Fraser last week.

“Ced Chaney had a huge weekend as far as special teams” Shoemaker said “He’s also been holding it down pretty good at his boundary corner position.”

Kickoff is at 1 p.m. at Tomlinson Stadium.