Wildcats, Wolves Receive Votes In First AFCA Football Poll
Central Washington and Western Oregon both finished with 7-4 overall records in 2019. The Wildcats are picked first and second, respectively, in the GNAC Preseason Poll.
Central Washington and Western Oregon both finished with 7-4 overall records in 2019. The Wildcats are picked first and second, respectively, in the GNAC Preseason Poll.

Monday, August 16, 2021

WACO, Texas – Central Washington and Western Oregon will open the 2021 football season among teams receiving votes in the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Preseason Division II Coaches’ Top 25 Poll.

Both teams were among 35 to receive votes in the initial edition of the poll as voted upon by a select group of Division II coaches. Central Washington received 15 votes while Western Oregon picked up one vote.

The two teams shared the 2019 GNAC championship. Central Washington was the unanimous pick to repeat as champion in the GNAC Football Preseason Coaches Poll while Western Oregon was picked second.

The Wildcats ended the 2019 season with one of the top offenses in Division II, ranking eighth in total offense with 504.7 yards per game and 10th in scoring offense with 41.8 points per game. The team outscored its opponents by an average of 12.2 points per game and outgained its foes by an average of 105.7 yards per game.

With as potent as the offense was, Central Washington’s defense was just as stout. The Wildcats ranked 27th in Division II with 15 interceptions and 28th in turnover margin (0.73).

The Wildcats return 10 starters with its most offensive experience coming back in the receiving corps. Senior wide receivers Tony Archie and JoJo Hillel both earned Second Team All-GNAC honors in 2019. Archie ranked third in the GNAC with 59.2 receiving yards per game and scored eight touchdowns. Hillel averaged 36.7 receiving yards per game with seven touchdowns.

Senior linebacker Donte Hamilton leads the CWU defense. Limited to just three games in 2019, Hamilton finished with 33 tackles, one sack and a forced fumble. Junior defensive lineman Isaiah Carbajal amassed 53 tackles in 2019, including 10 for loss, with four sacks. Junior punter Patrick Hegarty is the Wildcats’ lone returning First Team All-GNAC selection after he averaged 37.8 yards per punt over 49 attempts.

Western Oregon put together one of its best seasons in the program’s GNAC era in 2019. The Wolves earned a share of its first-ever GNAC championship when it stunned the Wildcats in Ellensburg, 36-26. The two teams put together another instant classic in Monmouth three weeks later, with CWU winning the game in overtime on a two-point conversion.

Much like their Evergreen State counterparts, the Wolves were solid on both sides of the ball. Western Oregon ranked 16th in Division II with 242.9 rushing yards per game and 18th with 465.8 yards of total offense per contest. The team also ranked eighth with 17.5 passing yards per completion and 28th in time of possession (31 minutes, 59 seconds per game). Western Oregon led all GNAC teams in total defense, allowing 359.4 yards per game.

Western Oregon’s 13 returning starters include a number of All-GNAC honorees. Junior running back Omari Land earned First Team All-GNAC honors in 2019 after he finished second in the conference with 92.2 rushing yards per game and nine touchdowns. Land also finished with a pair of receiving touchdowns with just 10 receptions. Junior wide receiver Marquis Sampson netted Second Team All-GNAC accolades after averaging 31.6 receiving yards per game with four touchdowns.

Senior defensive lineman Blayne Burnett was the 2019 GNAC Defensive Lineman of the Year and earned first-team honors after finishing with 41 tackles, four for loss, and 2.5 sacks. Junior linebacker Jaylin Parnell earned First Team All-GNAC selection after compiling 68 tackles, including 44 solo tackles and 10.5 for loss while forcing three fumbles. First Team All-GNAC junior defensive back Joey Sinclair finished with 49 tackles, including five for loss and three interceptions.

Senior Curtis Anderson is back as the conference’s top two-way threat. A First Team All-GNAC selection at defensive back, Anderson finished with 40 tackles and led the GNAC with five interceptions. Anderson also earned first-team honors at kick return, averaging 21.9 yards per return. His 636 total return yards ranked 28th in Division II.