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Eastern Washington University Football

Northwest Christian grad Silas Perreiah a welcomed return to EWU’s backfield after missing all of 2021 with injuries

By Dan Thompson For The Spokesman-Review

On the last play of the last drive of Eastern Washington’s first preseason scrimmage on Friday, Silas Perreiah crossed the goal line.

It was the first time the sophomore running back had done that in a game or scrimmage setting in nearly three years after scoring 74 times as a prep star at 2B Northwest Christian in Colbert.

Injuries have kept him not just out of the end zone but off the field entirely for more than a year, since he suffered a lower-body injury against Idaho State in March 2021. And Perreiah’s experience since then has been one defined by a unified focus.

“A lot of rehab, that’s pretty much it,” Perreiah said Friday. “Just trying to stay mentally locked in. That’s about it.”

Perreiah’s presence in the Eastern Washington backfield is no doubt a welcome one, as the past few years the Eagles have generally struggled to maintain a healthy corps at the position. Perreiah’s initial breakthrough as a true freshman in 2019 came primarily because of an injury to Dennis Merritt.

That opened up carries behind starter Antoine Custer Jr., and for at least one game, Perreiah shined. Against North Dakota on Sept. 28, 2019, he ran 23 times for 126 yards and his lone collegiate touchdown.

His share of the carries dropped off that season after Tamarick Pierce returned, and Perreiah finished the 2019 season with 255 yards on 57 carries.

In the third game of the spring 2021 season, Perreiah got hurt and was sidelined for a year; he didn’t participate during the last fall season or in any of the team’s spring 2022 scrimmages.

In the meantime, though, the running back room looks much different. Gone are Custer, Pierce and Merritt, and on Friday five other running backs carried in the scrimmage, led by junior Micah Smith (eight for 74 yards) and redshirt freshman Davante Smith (5 for 49).

Also on the team this year is sophomore Justice Jackson, who last year was second on the team with 317 yards, and redshirt freshman Tuna Altahir, who drew coaches’ praise during spring practices.

Altahir dressed but carried just once in the scrimmage; Jackson had 32 yards on three carries. True freshman Nick Adimora ran twice for 30 yards.

“It’s a competitive group,” EWU head coach Aaron Best said of the running backs Friday, when all three touchdowns scored were scored by running backs. “Guys want turns running the ball. And the best way to get turns running the ball is to be productive in the situations (they are) in.”

Best said he wasn’t expecting to see many plays for Perreiah during Friday’s scrimmage but that “he’s a fighter (and) he has rehabbed himself to this opportunity.”

“The hardest thing to do in football is score a touchdown,” Best said. “Super excited about Silas, and just his work ethic, his commitment to his team, because he’s not only going to be a factor on offense, he’s going to be a factor on special teams as well.”

Perreiah finished the scrimmage with three carries for 11 yards, but the redshirt sophomore running back said it was just nice to actually compete again.

“It was really good to be back out here with my teammates and with the coaches,” he said. “I think it’s really good to be successful as a whole offense as well.”

In high school, Perreiah ran for 5,602 yards in four seasons. As a senior, he was a first-team 2B all-state selection.

Three years removed from his time with the Crusaders, Perreiah looks more like he did in high school in one notable way: After starting his career at Eastern in No. 40, he’s back to wearing the No. 24 he wore in high school, since Pierce, who wore it previously, has graduated.

It’s one more bit of familiarity for a running back who is playing in a place he knows pretty well.

“It’s always fun to be local, to be close to my family, to be close to people that I know,” he said. “It’s really cool to wear the (Eagles’) logo, to represent the community.”