At the end of it all Saturday afternoon, the Eastern Washington football players didn’t waste any time pondering the scoreboard, the what-ifs, even the end of the road to Frisco.
Instead, the Eagles were looking back at the beginning of the trip, the one that started in the weight room back in January.
The trip that 16 seniors won’t take again in an Eastern uniform.
An hour after a tough 45-42 loss to Sam Houston State, senior offensive lineman Will Post was sitting in the mostly empty Eagles locker room with a small group of linemates, swapping stories of a game – and a season – that are still fresh enough to turn young men’s eyes red.
“What I’ll remember,” said Post, a team captain and All-American at right tackle, “is just that we never quit, that we were going to win a football game, no matter the circumstances.”
“I’d say I’m going to miss the guys, the friends, the relationships, and then working hard together, and seeing that the guy next to you is working just as hard as you are.”
For defensive lineman Evan Cook, the end of a career meant “this locker room, these people here, not just what happened on the field, but from January to now.”
The seniors’ individual records are impressive enough:
• Wide receiver Nicholas Edwards’ 215 career catches (No. 4 in EWU history), 2,634 yards (fifth) and 33 TDs (second).
• Linebacker Zach Johnson’s 324 career tackles, seventh on the EWU list.
• Linebacker Tyler Washburn’s 259 tackles, ranking 11th.
• Defensive end Jerry Ceja’s 23.5 sacks, ranking sixth all-time.
• Wide receiver Greg Herd’s 165 career catches, ranking ninth; and 2,348 yards, good for 10th all-time.
It adds up to 617 games, including 292 starts. And a national title two years ago, but even that wasn’t on the radar Saturday afternoon.
“What I’m going to remember,” said junior wide receiver Brandon Kaufman, “was hugging Nick (Nicholas Edwards) and Greg (Herd) at the end of the game – and hugging Will Post and Evan Cook.
“I told them how proud I am for the way they committed to this program and how they left everything out on the field tonight. It hurt real bad saying goodbye to Nick and Greg tonight.”
For head coach Beau Baldwin, the departing seniors were his first as head coach. In the fall of 2009, that group was playing on a grass field in front of small crowds and a high-school scoreboard.
“It hurts to lose, but this one hurts even more because they meant so much to this program,” Baldwin said. “When you think about it, those seniors paved the way towards this.
“When you see them, what they have gone through and how much they have put into this to help take us to the point where we are right now, you feel for them because it’s hard, and they care so much. They have nothing to hang their heads about. “