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Eastern Washington must tackle emotions as well as Portland State on Senior Day

In this Oct. 14, 2017 file photo, Eastern Washington defensive lineman Albert Havili (4) tangles with Montana State tight end Wilson Brott (97) during the second half of a college football game in Cheney. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
In this Oct. 14, 2017 file photo, Eastern Washington defensive lineman Albert Havili (4) tangles with Montana State tight end Wilson Brott (97) during the second half of a college football game in Cheney. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

When 14 Eastern Washington seniors leave Roos Field on Senior Day, they won’t be looking for validation from a committee.

Instead they’ll be searching for friends and family, the ones who stood behind them for half a decade. Wins and losses will be lost amid the hugs and tears.

“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about it,” senior wide receiver Nic Sblendorio said this week at practice for Saturday night’s game against Portland State.

“Next week, we may not be standing here,” Sblendorio said. “But I’m going to wrap my mind around that, and be really thankful and all smiles this week.”

For Sblendorio and the other seniors, there’s a lot to smile about. Most arrived as freshmen in the fall of 2013; since then, the Eagles have lost just 17 games and won 47, along with three Big Sky Conference titles.

There won’t be a fourth, but the Eagles (6-4 overall and 5-2 in the Big Sky) are still chasing a spot at the FCS playoffs.

Naturally, the seniors would like to stick around for another game or two – or five.

That’s the other subplot on Senior Day: Will a win over the Vikings (0-10 overall, 0-7 in the Big Sky) be enough to land the Eagles an at-large spot in the 24-team FCS playoffs?

They have plenty of competition for the remaining spots, but should have a good idea where they stand before the 3:12 p.m. kickoff.

Provided they beat PSU, the Eagles will spend a restless night before the FCS bracket is unveiled at 8 a.m. Sunday.

First things first: the Eagles must beat Portland State, which has won two of the last three meetings at Roos Field.

“We want to make a statement,” said Eastern coach Aaron Best. “We want to win games, but especially games against opponents that are in our same backyard and we’re fighting against for players in the off-season.”

“This is a little bigger than just a game, and we’re playing for something more,” Best said.

The Vikings finally have a quarterback in redshirt freshman Davis Alexander, who has completed 54 of 95 passes for 779 yards, two touchdowns and one interception against Cal Poly and Weber State.

Alexander’s 409 yards at Cal Poly were the most passing yards by a Viking QB in nine seasons. Eastern’s defense allows 461.2 yards (261 passing) and 33.4 points per game.


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