Woodward Field was a perfect place for sunbathers Saturday afternoon.
And freshman football players.
Eastern Washington’s fourth-ranked football team had its first scrimmage on Saturday and most of it was reserved for the youngest Eagles.
“We got our backup kids a lot of reps and we got a lot of our first-year freshmen a lot of reps,” head coach Paul Wulff said. “We held out a lot of veterans. Some of them are injured, some because they had a lot of good reps the first week of practice. Our next scrimmage is in six days, our last scrimmage, and everyone is going to play.”
All-American quarterback Erik Meyer made a token appearance but he made the most of it. The senior hit 5 of 6 passes for 113 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Brett Bergstrom.
Backup quarterback Chris Peerboom was 4 of 6 for 67 yards. In all, four quarterbacks combined to complete 14 of 19 passes for 241 yards.
“We’re almost there. We’re almost ready to play the first game, I think,” Meyer said. “We’ve got all the receivers back, the quarterback, we’ve been together five years now … being out there we kind of feel each other. I can’t really point it out, but we have good chemistry out there.
“The offensive line is really progressing. The new guys have stepped up and pushed some guys around. The offensive line is shaping up real well and our running back situation looks good.”
The running game produced 94 yards, not counting a minus-17 from five quick-whistle sacks for the defense. Dale Morris, the younger brother of Seattle Seahawks back Maurice Morris, had 37 yards on three carries.
Notable for his absence was running back Ryan Cole. The transfer from Oregon State was home for his sister’s wedding.
Senior safety Muhammad Shamsid-Deen led the defense with nine tackles, true freshman Kyle Wilkins had six and junior corner DeNique Ford picked off Peerboom to end the first series. True freshman Greg Peach and Graham Dorland each had two sacks.
“We’ve got two freshmen defensive ends we are very, very pleased with,” Wulff said. “At this point they will play this year, Jacob Kragt and Greg Peach. They’re a little undersized and they have to get stronger.”
Kragt is 6-foot-3, 210 pounds out of Ritzville, and Peach is 6-2, 240 out of Evergreen in Vancouver.
“It went well,” All-Big Sky Conference safety Brandon Keller said. “It was good to see how a lot of our freshmen are going to react in game-like situations. It was good to see them out there making plays. We have a good class this year and a lot of them stepped up and made plays. We’re looking forward to good things out of them.”
The junior also believes the defense is right on track for the season opener at San Jose State on Sept. 3.
“I’d say we’re right on pace,” he said. “With so many people coming back on defense, everyone is that much more familiar with our scheme and our game. It makes things flow a lot faster. We should make a lot more plays out there.”
The Eagles scrimmage again Friday morning at 9:30. That is when Wulff is expecting the veterans to make an impact.
“Some may not play a lot, but everyone is going to play because we’ve got to get our timing as close as we can,” he said. “I didn’t want to scrimmage a lot with our veterans and then take off a week before our first game. I’d rather have everybody play next week.”
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