GLENDORA >> Azusa Pacific University began Saturday in search of a championship. The Cougars may have earned a bit more at Citrus College.
They also made a pretty big statement for inclusion in next month’s NCAA Division II playoffs.
Andrew Elffers threw for 321 yards and four touchdowns and the Cougars forced four turnovers en route to a 44-7 victory over Central Washington to clinch their third Great Northwest Athletic Conference football title in four seasons.
Weston Carr also had nine receptions for 189 yards and four touchdowns for APU (8-1, 7-0), ranked No. 15 in NCAA Division II and No. 6 in Super Region Three. The Cougars, who equaled a Division II record with three interception returns for touchdowns last week, had three picks on Saturday to raise their season total to 21, which ranks near the top of Division II.
Central Washington, ranked No. 7 in the region, slipped to 5-3 and 4-2.
“It’s just great to get the title,” APU coach Victor Santa Cruz said. “We work hard to get every championship that’s possible. To be able to celebrate our third title in four years says a lot to what the coaches do, the school and the effort our kids give, not just this season, but all the way back to January. Our kids have had vision. They made the sacrifices and I’m just glad they get the fruit (from that commitment).”
APU pretty much clinched the title during the first two quarters, scoring on five of its first eight possessions for a 31-0 lead at halftime.
The game turned following consecutive Central Washington turnovers during the middle of the first quarter. APU, which took a 3-0 lead on its first drive with a 30-yard field goal by Jamie Cacciatore, used both miscues to extend the advantage to 17-0.
C.J. Broussard, who had both interceptions in the first half, returned the first inside the Wildcat’s 20 before Elffers tossed 12 yards to Carr for a 10-0 lead at 4:39.
“We knew it was going to be a battle,” Broussard said. “We knew we had to do what we do. (Tonight) was just the product of hard work and great coaching.”
Elffers, after the Cougars recovered a Central Washington fumble on the kickoff on the Wildcats’ 23, followed with a 10-yard pass to Brandon Jackson to setup Aaron Baltazar’s 1-yard run for a 17-0 lead at 2:39.
Elffers then capped the scoring in the first half with second-quarter touchdown passes of 27 yards to Carr and 12 to Ethan Zeidler for a 31-0 advantage.
He made it 37-0 with a 23-yard pass to Carr in the third quarter. Carr had a 45-yard TD reception from Chad Jeffries in the fourth quarter.
“Passing-wise, we knew we had to come out aggressive,” Carr said. “We knew we had to be perfect on the outside, and really just execute the whole game.”