Lions Stun Wildcats In Double Overtime Playoff Thriller
Central Washington quarterback Reilly Hennessey accounted for three touchdowns in the first half, finishing with 265 yards passing in the loss.
Central Washington quarterback Reilly Hennessey accounted for three touchdowns in the first half, finishing with 265 yards passing in the loss.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

ELLENSBURG, Wash. – No. 1 seeded Central Washington saw a 28-7 halftime lead vanish before Kristov Martinez hit a 38-yard field goal in the second overtime period as No. 5 seed Texas A&M-Commerce shocked the Wildcats with a 34-31 loss in the NCAA Division II Super Region 4 football playoffs at Tomlinson Stadium.

The Wildcats staked themselves to the 21-point halftime lead thanks to three touchdowns by quarterback Reilly Hennessey, two on touchdowns receptions and one of a 10-yard scoring run. The Lions, paced by quarterback Luis Perez, scored 21 unanswered second half points and forced overtime with a four-yard touchdown pass to Buck Wilson with three seconds left in regulation.

The two teams traded field goals in the first overtime period. The Wildcats had the ball first to open the second overtime, but a holding penalty and three incomplete passes kept the home team off the scoreboard. Commerce did not waste the opportunity as Martinez won the game with a 38-yard field goal.

The game was a fierce offensive battle with the two teams combining for 916 yards of total offense. The Wildcats finished with 487 yards of total offense, with Hennessey completing 22 of 34 passes for 265 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 49 yards and a third touchdown. Austin Pernell rushed 31 times for 158 yards and a touchdown.

Perez complete 41 of 65 passes for 394 yards and three touchdowns, but was forced into four interceptions by the CWU defense. Wilson caught 12 passes for 141 yards while Marquis Wimberly caught nine passes for 120 yards.

The first half belonged completely to the Wildcats. Hennessey opened the scoring with a 10-yard touchdown run just over three minutes into the game and then found Christian Stafford for a five-yard scoring reception with 1:37 left in the first. A 45-yard kickoff return by Reggie Kincade set up the Lions’ lone first-half score on a 65-yard reception from Perez to Buck.

Kyle Self gave the Wildcats the 21-7 lead on a three-yard reception from Hennessey while Pernell’s one-yard touchdown run with 6:04 left in the second quarter allowed Central Washington the 28-7 halftime lead.

Perez was picked off three times in the first half, but regained his composure to pace the Lions’ second-half comeback. He found Carandale Hale on Commerce’s first second-half drive with a 26-yard touchdown reception. Neither team scored again the rest of the third quarter before the Lions made it a 28-21 game when Perez found Hobbs for a nine-yard touchdown reception with 12 minutes left in regulation.

Commerce forced CWU into punts in their first two fourth-quarter drives before the Lions put together a 14-play, 64-yard game-tying drive, which ended when Perez hit Wilson for a four-yard touchdown reception with three seconds left to force the extra periods.

The Lions opened the first overtime period with Martinez connecting on a 38-yard field goal. The Wildcats threatened by moving the ball to the 5-yard line, but the Commerce defense forced Gavin Todd to connect for a 22-yard field goal. Central Washington had the ball first in the overtime period, but a holding penalty on third down forced the Wildcats into a long passing situation. Passes by Hennessey to Self and Christian Rauda went incomplete and gave Commerce the ball. Three short rushes by Hale set up the game-winning 38-yard field goal by Martinez.

Kevin Haynes, the GNAC Defensive Player of the Year, led all defensive players with 16 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, a sack and had one of the Wildcats’ four interceptions. Tevin Gray finished with 13 tackles.

With the loss, Central Washington ends its season at 11-1. Texas A&M-Commerce improved to 11-1 and will face MSU-Mankato in the Super Region 4 title game next Saturday.