The EWU football team has not played a game since November 23, 2019 when EWU soundly defeated Portland State University.
In the last 15 months, the EWU football team has seen their fall season firstly edited, then cancelled, then seen their season become pushed back to late winter and early spring.
Three weeks ago, the Big Sky conference finalized their unorthodox 2021 football schedule.
EWU has six games scheduled, all against Big Sky opponents.
The first game is in less than two weeks away, at the University of Idaho on Feb. 27. [to see rest of EWU’s schedule see here: 2020-21 FOOTBALL Schedule – Eastern Washington University Athletics (goeags.com)]
Head coach Aaron Best, who is entering his 4th season as the team’s head man, said that he is very excited for the players to get the ability to play in a couple weeks.
“I’m excited for the players,” Best said. “We live by carelessly through [the players]… it hasn’t been all smiles all the time … there have been a lot of hurdles … there have been a lot of curveballs … and there was a lot of unknown.”
Best said that one of the things the team missed out a lot on during the COVID-19 pandemic was doing activities together as a team.
“There have been very few activities that the team has participated in as a whole,” Best said. “The ability to get everyone together instead of compartmentalizing was a bigger deal than most people thought.”
“Everyone wants to get back out there … I want to get back out there.” -Eric Barriere, redshirt-senior quarterback
EWU redshirt-senior quarterback Eric Barriere who threw for over 3700 yards and 31 TD’s said that the team is excited to play their first game in 15 months. Barriere was named to the FCS preseason All-American 3rd team in the fall.
“The excitement level is high,” Barriere said. “Everyone wants to get back out there … I want to get back out there.”
During COVID-19 and an extended offseason, Barriere said that he began to appreciate football more.
“It’s been actually good with all the time off,” Barriere said. It made me appreciate football more.”
Both Barriere and Best said they were proud of the team and how they handled COVID.
“I think we have done a really good job,’ Barriere said. “As far as safety and stuff I think the team has done a good job at dealing with COVID.”
Best would add, “I think our guys have done a fabulous job up this point … we have been testing for the better part of six months regularly … we haven’t been perfect as we can … but we have done a good job at following COVID protocols.”
Best cited the medical staff, the university, and the athletic department as entities and people who helped keep the team safe through COVID.
Redshirt junior linebacker Chris Ojoh described his excitement for the upcoming season through analogies.
“The best way to describe it is like a kid in a candy shop,” Ojoh said. “It’s good to be back … it’s like the first day of school … kind of nervous … kind of excited.”
Ojoh said that one thing he learned during COVID, was to appreciate the small details that he said he and the team had taken for granted. He also said that he and the team are blessed with an opportunity to play.
“The way we see is that we have been blessed with the opportunity to play the game we love and to compete,” Ojoh said.
Senior offensive tackle Tristen Taylor said one of the biggest challenges throughout COVID, was that the team was never able to do anything together, and had to be separated by position groups.
“It’s been really good to get back out there with the whole team in one setting and not just separate,” Taylor said.
EWU’s first home game will be on Mar. 6 against Northern Arizona University.