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Jahleel Breland is an instant success in the Wildcats’ defense.

The 6-foot-3-inch, 200-pound redshirt sophomore safety and public relations major of Cleveland High School in Seattle ties graduate linebacker Donte Hamilton for the Central Washington University football team’s tackling lead with seven stops per game.

He’s made 41 tackles by himself, intercepted a pass and broken up four, hit a quarterback and recovered a fumble.

“I’m a natural safety: It’s my favorite position,” said Breland, a first-year starter who was a two-time all-Class 3A Metro League football first-teamer and a basketball small forward/power forward, and also won the Spirit of Cleveland Award given to leaders in and out of the classroom. “I was undersized in the post, but football helped against the bigger guys because I could guard their best player, dive for loose balls and get my guys the ball.”

Breland wasn’t credited with a single tackle in the Wildcats’ school- and Great Northwest Athletic Conference-record-setting 92-0 win against Lincoln Oct. 30 at Tomlinson Field in Ellensburg, but his coverage skills kicked in.

“The ‘D’ line was doing well, and I got my first career interception and fumble recovery,” Breland said. “My position is a little bit of both, and I do my job and fit my gap. I love to hit guys and tackle.”

Central (7-2 overall, 3-0 Great Northwest Athletic Conference) outscored opponents by an average of 55-17 in its five-game win streak that started with a 30-20 home upset of then-No. 11 Midwestern State Oct. 2.

The Wildcats have recovered 11 of 18 opponent fumbles, give up an average of 200 passing yards and 135 rushing yards and yield 34 and 36 respective third- and fourth-down conversion percentages.

“I’m a ball magnet,” said Breland, who led Central tacklers with eight stops in a 54-29 win Nov. 6 at Western New Mexico. “I get in on a tackle or a ball in the air, and I’ve always prided myself in always being around the ball and someone the other team is worried about.”

It’s also handy when everyone knows you in PR.

“It’s a broad field, and I feel like you can do a lot to communicate with people and get into networks when you go out into the world,” said Breland, whose coursework includes in-person and Zoom speeches.

The Wildcats, GNAC champions for the fourth year in a row and for the 11th time in history who last made the NCAA Division II playoffs in 2017, rank sixth in Super Region Four from which the top team receives a first-round playoff bye, the second-through-fourth seeds host first-round games and teams five through seven travel to games set to begin Nov. 20.

Central dropped from third, however, after last week and needs to beat GNAC rival Simon Fraser (1-6, 0-3), which fell 42-3 at Western Oregon Oct. 30 in Monmouth, in its regular-season home finale scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday.

The Wildcats beat the Dogs 36-14 Sept. 18 in Burnaby, B.C., and for the 39th time in 50 meetings, a span in which they’ve taken 14 in a row and are 19-3 at home.

“In a home game you get an extra day of sleep,” said Breland in comparison to the four-day road trip to Western New Mexico that included practicing at the University of Arizona, 200 miles slightly southwest of Silver City. “This Saturday we’ll get up, eat a team breakfast and go. It’s Senior Week, so we have to make sure we have the best game for them.”

Hamilton, wide receivers Tony Archie and Jojo Hillel, cornerback Michael Chisley, tight ends Isaac Crichton and Sam Sanchez, linebacker Fred Feleti, defensive linemen Maxwell Nauer and Zach Stecklein, offensive linemen Will Ortner and Tytus Timoteo, kicker Van Soderberg and cornerback/running back Davine Tullis — will be honored in a ceremony before their last game at Tomlinson Stadium.

Hamilton is Central’s tackle-for-loss leader with 13, 5 1/2 sacks, six interceptions, four breakups, three quarterback hits and a fumble recovery.

Stecklein is the GNAC Defensive Player of the Week for the second time after his six-tackle, two-sack, one-forced-fumble performance at Western New Mexico, and he’s the Wildcats sack leader with 7 1/2, a pass breakup, four quarterback hits, four forced fumbles and a recovery.

“He was a best-kept secret,” said Central coach Chris Fisk of Stecklein, 6-foot-6, 235, who came to the Wildcats after St. Cloud State (Minn.) shut down its program. “There aren’t a lot of D-II defensive ends who look like him with his length. He was supposed to be here for half a year but, because of COVID, he’s been here a year and a half.”

Quincy Glasper is a first-time GNAC Offensive Player of the Week after throwing for a career-high 452 yards and five touchdowns against Western New Mexico, and he averages 198 passing yards with 12 total touchdowns and two interceptions through five games.

Rashaad Boddie rushes for an average of 82 yards per game with seven touchdowns through eight appearances, and Darius Morrison covers 52 yards through the air with seven touchdowns per nine contests.

Simon Fraser is outscored by an average of 40-12 per game as sophomore quarterback Justin Seiber (6-foot-2, 185) of Kentwood High in Covington throws for 196 yards, eight total touchdowns and eight picks, junior running back Somto Anyadike (5-foot-11, 210) rushes for 22 yards, sophomore wide receiver Riley Morrison (5-foot-8, 165) of Bothell catches for 56 yards and a touchdown to date, and senior linebacker Griffin Barrett (5-foot-11, 230) carries 87 aggregate tackles.

The Wildcats will try to start faster this time against the Dogs as they trailed 14-8 early in the second quarter before Boddie finished with 279 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

“We went up there with a complete lack of respect for our opponent,” Fisk said. “We were going through the injury bug at that point in the season and we were dealing with some quarterback issues, and as you’ve seen we’ve got a lot of those quarterback issues ironed out.”

There is no pledge to keep mustaches until a playoff run, it’s all for the fun of No-Shave November, for which Fisk highlighted redshirt freshman offensive lineman Kent Powell and assistant coach John Picha.

“I think Kent Powell wins that award hands-down,” Fisk said.

The NCAA Football Selection Show is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday, and fans can watch it at NCAA.com.

“We don’t use the ‘P’ word until later on down the road,” Fisk said.

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