Eagles seem destined for greatness


Photo by Sam Sargeant

TJ Lee leads the Eagles on to the field during his senior season.

By Galen Rock, Sports Editor

If there was any doubt that Eastern was a legitimate national championship contender, they were squelched today.

Eastern hit on a number of big plays, cruising to a 54-29 trouncing of the fourth ranked Montana State Bobcats. The scary part is this team and this program keeps getting better and better. Season by season, game by game, play by play. This is an ascending team and not just on the offensive side.

Defensively, the Eagles continued to show their second half prowess despite the injury report that grows by the week. Eastern lost their two starting safeties, junior Tevin McDonald, to a broken fibula, and senior Allen Brown, to a lingering hamstring injury. But this group has yet to blink. All-American senior cornerback T.J. Lee III stepped in for Brown at free safety and sophomore Miles Weatheroy stepped in at strong safety. The ripple effects were felt throughout the defensive backfield, as senior Bo Schuetzle stepped into Lee’s vacated corner spot opposite veteran cornerback Ronald Baines. “The change was good. The coaches helped me. We were in the film room a lot and constantly talked [throughout the week]. All I had to do was go out there, do my assignment, communicate the calls and I let the guys know I’m [going to] be running it,” said Lee after the game. “Even If I make the wrong call, we’re going to have to roll with it and we’re going to stay as a team.” That’s exactly what they did. Going into halftime, the Eagles led by only one possession and having already given up 270 total yards of offense to the Bobcats, EWU had to go into the locker room and regroup. “The response we had coming out of the locker room was pivotal,” said head coach Beau Baldwin. “It was a tight game at halftime. Our guys really weathered the storm in the first half. “ The biggest adjustment came in the way they defended the run. After relenting 151 rushing yards to the Montana State trio, running backs Cody Kirk, Shawn Johnson and quarterback DeNarius McGhee, the Eagle defense only gave up 23 rushing yards after the intermission and only one touchdown. That is impressive against anyone, more so against the fourth best team in the country “We have a lot of depth on the defensive line. We always feel like we are going to be better late in games because of our [defensive line], because of our depth,” said Baldwin. Offensively, I don’t think there is much more that can be said about this unit. It is not an exaggeration to say this group is doing everything right and could quite possibly be the best in the nation. Led, of course, by all-everything quarterback Vernon Adams, but the surrounding cast also deserves equal, if not more, admiration. From the play calling, which was on another planet against the the Bobcats, to the deep and dangerous stable of backs and receivers Baldwin has collected over the past two seasons, the admiration is well-served. Even the offensive line that goes unnoticed, which is always a positive, deserves praise. This group is clicking. “My [offensive line] and running backs. Cooper Kupp, Ashton Clark, Cory [Mitchell], Shaq [Hill]. All these guys. They’re making me look better than what I am,” said Adams. “They’re racking the ball in. It’s fun playing with these guys. They are really helping me out.“ This offense is peaking at the right time as well. Junior punter Jake Miller never saw the field against the Bobcats as Eastern scored every time they touched the football. A perfect nine-for-nine, EWU was also able to run the ball for the second straight week, led by junior Quincy Forte, the Eagles racked up 244 rushing yards. Big plays were a huge part of that. Montana State had six more first downs than the Eagles. EWU, on the other hand, was able to get chunks of yardage deep down the field. Eastern ran 48 plays, 27 of them went for 11 yards or more. Explosive efficiency like that is unheard of, but this team looks destined for things unheard of. It can be argued that this team is better than the 2010 roster that won the national championship. They are certainly deeper and more explosive. The way this team rebounds from injuries is just one example. This team is destined for greatness and players like Lee, who have been here throughout the process, know and appreciate just how big of a win this is. “This win means everything for our organization, for our team, for our conference,” said Lee. “[This win is] for anybody that ever was an Eagle fan and knows how tough of a game this is.”