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Sports >  EWU football

Eastern Washington holds final tune-up before start of regular season

UPDATED: Wed., Aug. 25, 2021

Backup quarterback Gunner Talkington makes a pass Wednesday during Eastern Washington’s scrimmage at Roos Field in Cheney. In two scrimmages, Talkington was a combined 11 of 21 for 157 yards.  (Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVI)
Backup quarterback Gunner Talkington makes a pass Wednesday during Eastern Washington’s scrimmage at Roos Field in Cheney. In two scrimmages, Talkington was a combined 11 of 21 for 157 yards. (Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVI)
By Dan Thompson For The Spokesman-Review

JESSE TINSLEY/ THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW Defensive back Demetrius Crosby celebrates an interception Wednesday during the Eastern Washington University football scrimmage at Roos Field in Cheney. The defense dominated, holding five quarterbacks to 18-of-47 passing for 209 yards.

With the No. 1 offense and defense mostly watching from the sidelines, the Eastern Washington football team’s backups got their chance to shine Wednesday in the team’s second scrimmage.

A few of them certainly made the most of the opportunity.

Redshirt freshman Cage Schenk intercepted one pass and broke up three others to lead a strong defensive effort for the Eagles, and true freshman running back Tuna Altahir carried nine times for 64 yards to lead a more balanced offensive attack, earning the praise of coach Aaron Best once again, just as he did last week.

“He’ll be a dude by the time his career is done,” Best said of Altahir.

Altahir and fellow true freshman Davante Smith (six carries, 48 yards) led the rushing attack for the Eagles, whose running back group has been thinned by injuries to senior Tamarick Pierce and sophomore Silas Perreiah. The group finished with 174 yards on 33 carries Wednesday.

“In a weird way because they were force-fed those reps, they’re better at these moments when they get on the stage in scrimmages,” Best said of the two freshmen. “They’ve been a great surprise this fall.”

While quarterback Eric Barriere and the Eagles’ receivers dominated the first preseason scrimmage last week, nearly all the starters on both sides sat out Wednesday’s event at Roos Field.

In their absence, the defense recorded five sacks, a safety, nine quarterback hurries and broke up seven passes while holding five Eagles quarterbacks to a combined 18 completions on 47 attempts for 209 yards.

“Anytime a scrimmage or a game is kinda choppy, it’s probably because the defense made more plays,” Best said.

Sophomore Demetrius Crosby Jr. recorded the scrimmage’s first interception when he dove to snag a tipped pass just before it hit the turf. Schenck’s interception came off sophomore Simon Burkett late in the scrimmage on the offense’s side of the field.

“I was just reading my drop, kinda looking at the sticks, and it was an end of game situation, so I just kept looking for work and got lucky,” Schenk said. “It fell right in my lap.”

Altahir, who played six games for Kamiakin High School last spring, said he remembered coming to Roos Field for camps during high school.

“Now to actually play for them,” he said, “it’s a great feeling.”

The speed of the game is faster, Altahir said, something that was evident without the starters out there.

“It’s a lot different for sure because those guys are all veterans, they know exactly what they’re doing,” Altahir said. “All of us are still kind of learning so it’s slower for us, but the tempo is still really fast. … You gotta pick on (the playbook) really fast.”

While the team won’t release a depth chart until next week, Best suggested that two quarterbacks, junior Gunner Talkington and the sophomore Burkett, had separated from the others during preseason camp.

Over the two scrimmages, Talkington went a combined 11 for 21 for 157 yards, while Burkett completed 9 of 19 attempts for 165 yards.

“I think we know who’s No. 1, and in all honesty, Gunner Talkington and Simon Burkett have had really, really good camps. It’s been nice to see,” Best said. “Gunner’s pretty much played steady for the better part of two, two-and-a-half years. Simon really took a big stride in this camp.”

With preseason camp now finished, the Eagles will turn their attention to their opening-day opponent, UNLV. They play in Las Vegas on Sept. 2.

“It’s time to get to the next chapter and phase of things,” Best said. “It’s one of those (heavy-sigh) moments: OK, now we’re done. Now we get a new challenge in front of us, and (next week) they actually do keep score.”

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