ARCATA, Calif. -- For the third consecutive year, the Central Washington University football team played down to the wire with Humboldt State University at the Redwood Bowl, but the Wildcats again came away with a close defeat on Saturday night, falling 14-10 to the Lumberjacks in a battle for first place in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference standings.
The loss was the second straight for CWU, which fell to 5-4 overall and 5-3 in GNAC play. The Wildcats, who finished the away portion of their schedule with a 2-4 road record, fell into a second-place tie with Western Oregon University in the league standings, while Humboldt State (7-2, 6-2 GNAC) took over sole possession atop the conference with the win.
The close contest marked the third time in as many seasons that the Wildcats and Lumberjacks played a nail-biter that was decided in the fourth quarter. On each of the previous two occasions, Humboldt State kicked a last-minute field goal to win the game.
The Wildcats scored on their first series of the game, as senior Demetrius Sumler (San Diego, Calif./Cathedral Catholic HS) found the end zone on a four-yard carry that put CWU in front 7-0. The defense made that lead stand up until midway through the second quarter, allowing just the Lumberjacks two first downs in the opening quarter and keeping HSU out of the end zone on a fourth-and-goal stand at the one-yard line. In fact, CWU kept the Lumberjacks in check through most of the second quarter as well, allowing just two more first downs. However, a 20-yard interception return for a touchdown by Ryan Moreno with 6:48 remaining in the opening half enabled Humboldt State to tie the game at 7-7.
The score remained deadlocked all the way until the fourth quarter, but CWU had other opportunities to score. A pair of missed field goals in the opening half resulted in the Wildcats coming away empty, as did a later drive that had chewed up more than five minutes of game clock but that resulted in no points after a fumble inside the red zone. All told, CWU finished the game just 2 for 6 on drives inside the HSU 20 yard line, with a 29-yard field goal by senior Sean Davis (Federal Way, Wash./Todd Beamer HS) in the fourth quarter accounting for the Wildcats' other red-zone score.
Humboldt State scored its lone offensive touchdown of the game early in the fourth quarter after a quick four-play, 54-yard drive. A 47-yard pass from Casey Mintz to Victor Spencer on the first play of the series gave the Lumberjacks the football at the CWU 7, and Nick Ricciardulli then scored on a one-yard carry to give the hosts the lead. The Wildcats responded with a 13-play, 71-yard drive that Davis capped with his three-pointer, but each team then went three-and-out. HSU then ran out the clock to preserve the victory.
CWU finished with a statistical advantage in nearly every category, including first downs (22-11), time of possession (38:02-21:58), and total offense (309-295). Individually, Sumler finished the game with just 66 rushing yards on 23 carries, and senior quarterback Ryan Robertson (Sammamish, Wash./Eastlake HS) completed 20 of 34 passes for 184 yards. The Wildcats' top receiver was senior Tavoy Moore (Long Beach, Calif./Gahr HS) with career-highs of nine receptions for 94 yards. Moore accumulated 226 all-purpose yards for the game, adding 132 yards in returns. Defensively, senior linebacker Louie Bruketta (Ellensburg, Wash./Kittitas HS) had 10 tackles to tie for game-high honors, while junior Stan Langlow (University Place, Wash./Curtis HS) added nine stops.
Central Washington will now play its final two games of the season at home, first taking on Western Oregon next Saturday (Nov. 3) at 1 p.m. The Wildcats will then close out the campaign with a Nov. 10 contest against Dixie State.
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