Future Eagles Take Center Stage in Saturday Scrimmage

Most experienced veterans will rest-up for Eastern’s opener against the Washington Huskies on Sept. 3

Pictured: University of Washington transfer Demitrius Bronson throws to players from West Plains Pop Warner during a post-practice clinic at Roos Field. EWU opens the season against the Huskies on Sept. 3.

The future of Eagle Football will be on display this Saturday (Aug. 27) at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash.

Most of the team’s experienced veterans are expected to sit out when Eastern Washington University concludes its second week of preseason practices with a scrimmage at approximately 10:30 a.m. The scrimmage, the last before Eastern plays at the University of Washington on Sept. 3, is free and open to the public.

“We are to the point where we have practiced a lot, and a lot of the things we do in a scrimmage we’ve done in live situations during practice,” explained head coach Beau Baldwin. “We want to be smart with our older players, starters and travel squad players. On the flip side, it does give some of the younger players, who are fighting for some of those bubble positions, another chance to prove themselves. They are trying to develop into players who can help us on special teams, and this gives us another chance to see them in a live situation.”

Very few of EWU’s 15 returning starters and EWU’s 35 other letter winners back will be in action on Saturday, leaving the bulk of the action to sophomores, redshirt freshmen and true freshmen. Baldwin said preseason practices have been productive, and, best of all, relatively injury-free.

“It’s been really positive,” he said of camp, which started Aug. 10. “Overall we’ve stayed relatively healthy, which says a lot about our strength and fitness level. To come out of the summer and not have too many players sidelined has been very impressive, and I’m excited about that.”

Eastern enters the 2011 season with more game experience and practice time than most teams, whose 2010 seasons ended last November. The Eagles played 15 games after ending the season with an 11-game winning streak to win the 2010 NCAA Division I title. With well more than an extra month of practice time under their belts, the Eagles finished the season on Jan. 7, 2011, with a come-from-behind 20-19 victory over Delaware in the national championship game.

“I think we’ve developed a level of physical ability that I think is a step up from last August going into the season,” Baldwin said. “That’s something you are always trying to develop as a football team – you want to be a better team up front, you want to play with a lower pad level and you want to tackle better. I think we are, but we still are going to have to keep gelling as a team. The best of teams work to keep getting better week to week. We are going to go through hard times – even in victories – where you need to make serious improvements and keep grinding. We’ll keep developing as a team, especially in the first half of the season.”

Following Saturday’s scrimmage, the Eagles will take Sunday off before beginning preparations for the Huskies, a member of the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision and the Pac-12 Conference. Washington finished 7-6 overall and 5-4 in the league a year ago, just two years after a 0-12 campaign in 2008. The Huskies won their final four games last season, including a 19-7 Holiday Bowl victory over Nebraska -- a team Washington lost to 56-21 earlier in the year.

Eastern’s season-opening foe is formidable, but the Eagles are ready for a game. Next week’s match-up – Washington’s first-ever meeting against a team from the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision – starts at 4:05 p.m. Pacific time and is televised live on Root Sports.

“With as many players we have who do the voluntary workouts in the summer, preseason camp becomes very long,” added Baldwin. “Those guys are working so hard over the summer that when they get through camp, they are especially ready to play somebody else. It will be exciting next week.”

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