The cold, wet weather caused quarterback Jon Kitna some concern when his Central Washington Wildcats took the field Saturday against Mary (N.D.) in the NAIA Division II semifinals.
“The ball felt like it weighed 10 pounds with all that rain on it,” he said.
But it was the Mary Marauders who ended up worrying, as Kitna played like he was 10 feet tall.
The senior threw three touchdown passes in a span of 1:23 of the third quarter and added a fourth 5 minutes later as the 14th-ranked Wildcats beat No. 9 Mary, 48-7.
Central will play No. 8 Findlay, Ohio, next Saturday for the NAIA Division II title at 1 p.m. in the Tacoma Dome.
Findlay’s Oilers crushed No. 2 Lambuth (Tenn.), 63-13, in the other semifinal Saturday, in Jackson, Tenn.
Kitna set NAIA Division II season total offense (4,642) and passing (4,330) yardage records.
“The guys (pass receivers) were really wide open,” Kitna said. “I had 3 or 4 seconds to set up, and I just had to throw the ball. That’s something you never expect.”
“We knew we had to stop their running game, not let them control the ball,” Central Washington linebacker Scott LeMaster said. “We had to get our quarterback the ball.”
On defense, LeMaster said the Wildcats “played our best game ever.” He made nine tackles, had three assists and recovered a Mary fumble.
Ahead 9-7 at the half, Kitna threw Kenny Russaw a 32-yard scoring pass 1:10 into the third quarter. He hit E.J. Henderson with a 42-yard TD pass 1:04 later. Nineteen seconds later, Henderson caught a 27-yard scoring pass from Kitna.
Kitna’s 80-yard touchdown throw to Russaw 5:09 later put Central up 36-7. Kitna ran 1 yard for Central’s fifth TD of the third quarter. He completed 23 of 34 pass attempts for 413 yards against Mary and rushed for 75 yards in seven tries.
Division II championship
At Florence, Ala., Jermaine Roberts ran for 107 yards and two TDs as North Alabama (14-0) cruised to an unprecedented third straight Division II championship, beating Pittsburg State 27-7.