When it comes to top 10-ranked football teams, small college programs salvaged a modicum of pride for Washington sports fans last weekend.
While Washington State and Washington were upset by unranked teams and fell out of the top 10, the state’s other top 10 teams won.
Eastern Washington (4-2) beat Montana State 31-19 on Saturday and moved up to No. 8 from ninth in the Football Championship Subdivision coaches poll. And Central Washington (7-0) crushed Western Oregon, 42-0, to improve to ninth (up from 10th) in the NCAA Division II coaches poll.
The Huskies dropped to No. 12 (from No. 5) in the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches polls, while the Cougars are now ranked 15th (down from eighth) and 18th (down from ninth) in the respective polls.
The Wildcats, powered by South Sound talent, have won nine games in a row dating back to last season and they are the state’s last remaining undefeated team. Forty-six CWU players attended high school in the South Sound area and coach Ian Shoemaker graduated from Orting High.
The Wildcats have been led by their defense this season. They are outscoring opponents 298-116. Saturday was their second shutout of the season. Central had six sacks and three takeaways Saturday. Junior defensive back Tyler Hasty, a transfer from Oregon State University, recorded his sixth interception in five games.
Central’s next game is Oct. 21 in Ellensburg with a non-conference game against North Alabama. A week later Central plays Azusa Pacific. CWU beat Azusa Pacific, 17-16, in Glendora, California, earlier this season on a last-second, 42-yard field goal by Gavin Todd.
Eastern Washington also has a strong collection of South Sound talent. The Eagles have 27 players who graduated from South Sound high schools and their coach, Aaron Best, graduated from Curtis High.
On Saturday, the Eagles held off a late rally from Montana State in front of 11,301 fans, the fifth-largest crowd in school history. The Eagles, first place in the Big Sky Conference, are led by junior quarterback Gage Gubrud, a McMinnville, Oregon, product. Gubrud has completed 65.1 percent of his passes for 2,412 yards, 20 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
The Eagles next game is Saturday at Southern Utah. The Eagles (4-0 in the Big Sky) do not play fellow Big Sky title contender Northern Arizona (3-0) this season.