Wildcats look to fell Lumberjacks

Jeffrey Macmillan, Staff Reporter

Fresh off their homecoming win over the Wolves of Western Oregon, the Wildcats football team now set their sights on a trip to northern California to face the 5-1 Humboldt State Lumberjacks.

The Wildcats boast the nation’s 4th rated pass rush, led by junior Tovar Sanchez who currently is ranked 5th in the nation in sacks.

While Sanchez will cause problems for Humboldt’s passing attack, the Wildcats hope to put extra men in the box to slow down Humboldt’s running game.

“As much as Humboldt runs the ball, we will need to get an extra man in the box to counter it,” Mike Dunlevy, coach of linebackers and safeties said. “So that we can protect Haynes, so that he get over the top on these linemen and make plays.”

Central will have to rely on sophomore linebacker Kevin Haynes to contend with the two-headed backfield monster of Ja’Quan Gardner and Nick Ricciardulli which Humboldt will employ versus the Wildcat’s 116th ranked rush defense.

Kevin Haynes 66 total tackles, three interceptions, one forced fumble.
CWU Athletics
Kevin Haynes
66 total tackles, three interceptions, one forced fumble.

Haynes leads the team in tackles and is currently 22nd in the nation in solo tackles. Central should expect to see the ball in the hands of Humboldt’s running backs a lot

Central fans should expect Haynes to find his way to the ball all game long as he moves behind the Wildcat’s defensive line.

“The defensive line will get the job done up front,” Haynes said. “The game plan we have will help me find my way to the ball.”

Central currently has seven blocks in the kicking game with five field goals blocked and two punts in seven games this season.

Central’s sophomore quarterback Jake Nelson is expected to make his presence felt. Nelson who played tough versus Western Oregon, took a lot of hits but still kept on distributing the ball to multiple targets all game long.

Nelson is currently 21st in the nation in passing yardage and is only one of seven under classmen in the top 25 in that category.

Wildcat fans should expect no less, as Nelson should be able to get the ball deep to wide receivers sophomore Kent McKinney Jr. and senior Greg Logan all game long.

On the other side of the field, Humboldt State has a lot to contend with as they are still recovering after suffering their first loss of the season; a 21-55 loss to Azusa Pacific. The Lumberjacks hope to rebound against Central but to do that they will need to find a way to use their explosive running backs more effectively than they did against Azusa.

The Lumberjacks split carries between senior running back Nick Ricciardulli and true freshman running back Ja’Quan Gardner.

Ricciardulli touches the ball on 26 percent of the plays from scrimmage. He has suffered a few injuries recently

The other half of the running back duo is true freshman Ja’Quan Gardener. He who averages 8.2 yards per carry.

The Wildcats hope to stop Humboldt State’s explosive rushing attack, which is putting up over 200 yards a game, by relying on sound tackling and attention to details.

“You’re not going to stop Humboldt’s offense with any one given defense or player,” Central’s Defensive Coordinator, Payam Saadat said. “We need to understand that if we aren’t working in unison that we will be exposed by Humboldt’s offense.”

Gardner was unable to play versus Azusa Pacific as the Lumberjacks found themselves relying more on the passing game,  which is ranked 90th in the nation. In games where Gardner touches the ball seven or more times, the Lumberjacks are unbeaten, outscoring opponents 194 to 43 this season.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Lumberjacks boast the nations 2nd best pass rush (4.33 sacks/per game) lead by senior defensive linemen, Alex Markarian, and Silas Sarvinski. They each have 6.5 sacks this season and have combined for 13.5 tackles for loss.

In the special teams game, the punt return unit of senior Gianni Olivas and sophomore Chase Krivashei currently combine to average 19.93 yards per return. Both have a return for at least 60 yards this season.

Central looks to extend their two game win streak and climb up in the GNAC rankings.