The Central Washington Football team finally lost a game this season, dropping a heartbreaking 34-31 decision to Texas A&M Commerce on Saturday in the NCAA Division II playoffs.
CWU finished its season 11-1, after garnering statewide attention for its undefeated regular season.
What a ride it was for the Wildcats. What a ride it was for senior tight end and Peninsula High School 2013 graduate Kyle Self.
Self caught 37 passes for 446 yards and nine touchdowns this season, including a receiving touchdown in the playoff contest against Commerce.
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“The coaches put us in the right position,” Self said. “The offensive scheme fit me really well.”
CWU ran the majority of its plays out of a two tight-end formation. Self was often split out wide, giving him the chance to rack up yards on passes from quarterback Reilly Hennessey.
“I’ve been in this offense three years now,” Self said. “I know all the ins and outs.”
Self attributed his success to a variety of things — a good rapport with Hennessey, good schemes and coaching, senior experience and dedicated offseason training regimen. Self stayed in Ellensburg during the summer, training at 7 a.m. most days alongside teammates and running routes with Hennessey afterward.
A strong senior class led CWU to an undefeated regular season.
“I wouldn’t want to go out any other way,” Self said. “I was talking to a couple of my buddies, and it was like we were out there in (Peninsula Youth Football) again, just having fun with the boys. It was quite the feeling.”
CWU had a 28-7 lead over A&M Commerce at the half. Watching A&M’s game-winning field goal in the second overtime was crushing for the Wildcats’ players.
“It was a tough pill to swallow,” Self said. “I couldn’t believe it. Going into halftime, we were super confident. It just didn’t work out the way we wanted it to. When they kicked that field goal, my heart sunk.”
Still, it was by all accounts a hugely successful season, especially for Self, who was proud to represent the Peninsula community.
“I get texts from my high school buddies saying ‘Keep doing your thing,’ and stuff like that,” Self said. “I’m proud of where I came from. More and more Peninsula guys are showing up here now.”
Self attributes his work ethic and preparedness for college football to longtime Peninsula coach Ross Filkins.
“It made the transition easy,” Self said. “You can tell which kids are Peninsula kids when you come to Central. I remember way back in my senior year of high school, when I was playing in the East/West games, one of the coaches came up to me and said, ‘Why do you guys run everywhere? Why do you run to the water? Everyone else is walking there.’”
Self said he keeps tabs on the Peninsula program and makes it back when he can. Self is studying marketing and human resources at Central with a sports business minor and plans to pursue a career in sports marketing.
He’ll surely miss football, but Self made plenty of memories along the way.
“The lifelong friends that I made here — it’s a family,” Self said. “The whole senior class has just been awesome.”