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Eastern Washington University Football

Eastern Washington notebook: Eagles safety Tysen Prunty returns home to face Portland State

Tysen Prunty and Sam Inos anchored the back end of a Tigard High defense that reached the Oregon 6A title game in 2014.

Both safeties signed with Eastern Washington, hoping to emulate the success they enjoyed at the Portland-area school.

When fourth-ranked Eastern Washington (8-2, 6-1 Big Sky) visits Portland State (4-6, 3-4) Friday night at Hillsboro Stadium, Prunty will be starting for one of the top FCS defenses in the country.

Inos will likely be on the sideline in a forest green jersey.

Since transferring to Portland State last year, Inos earned a starting job with the Vikings before suffering an undisclosed injury last month against Sacramento State.

Inos, the 2014 6A Defensive Player of the Year, didn’t practice on Tuesday and has missed the last two games.

That hasn’t kept Prunty and Inos from engaging in some good-natured ribbing leading up to the regular-season finale.

“Oh, yeah. Definitely (trash talking),” said Prunty, whose defense is allowing just 16 points per game in conference play. “All of the time.”

This is much more than a reunion for Prunty.

A win would give EWU at least a share of the Big Sky Conference crown and likely a first-round bye in the FCS playoffs.

If Portland State upset EWU, it would cost the Eagles a trophy and likely a first-round bye.

Third-ranked Weber State (8-2, 6-1) and No. 9 UC Davis (8-2, 6-1) share the conference lead with EWU. Weber State visits Idaho State (6-4, 5-2) and the Aggies play host to last-place Sacramento State (2-7, 0-6) on Saturday.

If EWU, Weber State and UC Davis all win this weekend, Weber State earns the automatic bid to the playoffs, according to the conference. The Wildcats hold the tiebreaker over the Eagles (Weber State beat EWU 14-6 in October).

EWU handled then-first place UC Davis 59-20 at Roos Field last week. Weber State and UC Davis didn’t meet this season.

Prunty, a junior with 101 tackles in his collegiate career, knows the Eagles can’t look past Portland State if it wants to reach the first of its two primary goals: a conference title and a national title.

The FCS playoff bracket will be released Sunday.

“This week we have to come with the mentality to finish out the regular season and try to get ready for the playoffs,” Prunty said. “We just have to leave no doubt and be ready to set the tone in this game.”

Portland State has dropped its last two games, a 48-45 decision to Idaho State and a 17-10 loss to North Dakota. Both teams have been ranked this season.

The Vikings, who often finish in the bottom half of the Big Sky standings, have lost seven of their last nine games against EWU.

Other Portland-area products returning home Friday include redshirt freshman defensive end Mitch Johnson (West Linn) and reserve center Conner Crist (Tigard).

Close to milestones

EWU senior running back Sam McPherson is nearing the 1,000-yard rushing mark.

If McPherson, who has 870 yards and nine touchdowns on 125 carries, reaches 1,000 yards in the coming weeks, he’ll be the first for EWU since Quincy Forte (1,208 yards) in 2013.

Eagles senior wide receiver Nsimba Webster is close to joining a long list of decorated pass catchers who eclipsed 1,000 yards in a single season.

Webster has a career-high 925 yards and five touchdowns on 55 catches. He missed nearly three games earlier in the season with an ankle injury.

Senior Mitch Fettig is close to being the most prolific tackler in EWU defensive back history. Fettig (282 tackles) is seven away from breaking the record (286) set by defensive back Julian Williams in 2000.

Barriere numbers quickly add up

EWU sophomore quarterback Eric Barriere is piling up numbers in a hurry.

In five starts this season, Barriere, who is 4-1 in that stretch, has completed 118 of 201 passes for 1,287 yards, nine touchdowns and three interceptions.

He’s been nearly as menacing with his feet, rushing for 354 yards and five touchdowns on 55 carries (6.4 yards per carry).

“He’s growing up every game,” Nsimba Webster said.

EWU head coach Aaron Best said he expected this from Barriere, who stepped in for All-American Gage Gubrud, who went down with a career-ending toe injury in late September.

“Earlier this season, everybody wanted to know what we were going to to do without Gage Gubrud,” Best said. “I’m passionate when I say that it’s the people in place. We have competitive depth here and when you miss a piece, you don’t have to reach very far.”

Big Sky honors Eags

EWU seniors Nzuzi Webster and Roldan Alcobendas earned Big Sky Player of the Week distinction for their roles in last Saturday’s rout of UC Davis.

Webster was the Defensive Player of the Week after recording his first collegiate touchdown, a momentum-shifting 45-yard interception return in the third quarter.

Alcobendas was the Special Teams Player of the Week, scoring 11 points. He kicked a 24-yard field goal to remain perfect on the season at 13 for 13. He also converted all eight of his extra points and punted five times for a 39.8 average, with three downed inside the UC Davis 10-yard line