Even on a Tuesday afternoon in April, the Eastern Washington football players had their game faces on.
And why not? Saturday’s Red-White Spring game is the closest the Eagles will get to the real thing until sometime in September.
Coach Aaron Best and his staff stoked the fires this week, organizing a player draft and allowing the Red and White squads more practice time.
“In years past when we have done the game, we’ve kind of had 10 or 15 minutes at the end of practice to practice with your Red or White team,” Best explained.
The head coach for the Red will be longtime Eagles assistant coach Jeff Schmedding, now EWU’s defensive coordinator.
Current associate head coach and defensive line coach Eti Ena will lead the White squad. The rest of the assistants have been split up, while Best will roam the field as an observer of what he hopes will be a better-played game on both sides because of the preparation time.
“Three of our spring practices will be leading up to the Red-White, and they’ll be practicing more with their teams on what they are going to do on Saturday,” Best said early this week.
In Monday’s draft, senior center Spencer Blackburn was the No. 1 pick for the second straight year, but this time went to the Red team of senior nose guard Jay-Tee Tiuli.
Last year Blackburn was drafted opposite Tiuli to help block against the 2016 first team All-Big Sky performer, but this year he was drafted as an alternate chess move to potentially allow Tiuli to dominate the inside.
The top pick on defense was senior cornerback Brandon Montgomery, the reigning Golden Eagle award winner after leading the Red to a 24-17 victory in last year’s game.
The game will include live special teams and a 15-minute running clock in each quarter, with several rules and regulations in place.
“It’s very competitive,” said senior safety Mitch Fettig. “It’s going to bring out the competitive juices, give us a game feel and someone to compete against.”
However, quarterbacks will be protected. Also, location on the field in addition to down-and-distance will determine punt situations and four-down territory for the offenses. Other than that, Best will let the players make plays.
“Like anything, guys want to compete,” he said. “They want the ball put down, and they will determine the situations. This allows us to grow every year. We learn a little bit more every year to be better.”
Best said those words on a warm Tuesday afternoon. However, there’s a good chance of rain on Saturday.
Subscribe to The Spokesman-Review's sports newsletter
Get the day's top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.