Zach Eagle wins Golden Eagle Award as MVP of the game with a TD catch and 94 all-purpose yards
CHENEY, Wash. — The Eagles were going to win regardless, but a true Eagle helped them do it.
On a week in which spring practice concluded and the school finalized its schedule, senior wide receiver Zach Eagle won the Golden Eagle Award as the game’s MVP after he helped the White shut out the Red 17-0 in EWU’s annual Red-White Game Saturday (April 28) at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash.
Eagle had the day’s first touchdown on a 45-yard reception from sophomore wide receiver Johnny Edwards IV , and finished with 94 yards between receptions and punt returns. Junior linebacker Jack Sendelbach led the way on defense for the White with 11 tackles and a sack.
“I think on both sides some plays were made — some big plays,” said head coach Aaron Best . “That was a big play for the offense of the White squad with that reverse pass. We don’t like to shelve too many things — we like to keep it free and fun for the guys. They executed a play that they practiced all week, and so kudos to them. They got off on the right foot and kind of shocked the Red squad.”
A draft earlier in the week helped pick teams for the game, with each team featuring five senior co-captains. The TD for Eagle came on the first play of the game for the White, and on its next possession senior quarterback Gage Gubrud combined with redshirt freshman Gunner Talkington on a seven-play, 57-yard scoring drive.
The Red advanced as far as the White 21 and 23 in the fourth quarter for its deepest penetrations of the game, but those ended with an interception by Keshaun King and the other on downs.
Eagle finished with three catches for 63 yards and had another 31 yards on two punt returns, and teammate Jayson Williams also had three catches for 47 yards. Gubrud was 4-of-10 passing for 45 yards and Talkington was 5-of-10 for 50 yards and an 11-yard touchdown pass to redshirt freshman Andrew Boston .
Sophomore quarterback Eric Barriere was 14-of-22 for 170 yards for the Red, with redshirt freshman Marques Hampton Jr. catching four for 27 and senior Nsimba Webster finishing with three for 68 yards.
The White had 176 yards on 37 plays and the Red had 162 in 38 plays. The Red was sacked three times and had a negative six yards rushing. Junior Dennis Merritt led the White with 29 rushing yards.
Besides Sendelbach, sophomore linebacker Chris Ojoh had five tackles with a sack. For the Red, three players had five tackles each – Ira Branch , Kurt Calhoun and Dylan Ledbetter . Junior Dehonta Hayes had an interception as both teams had one turnover in the contest.
“At the end we talk about turnovers,” said Best. “A lot of the times turnovers is timing. When you’re not working with somebody all the time you can get in situations where you have a mesh that goes awry. Things like that happen. All and all we are healthy, half the squad is happy, and here we go into the fall of 2018 after 15 spring practices.”
The head coach for the Red was longtime Eagle assistant coach Jeff Schmedding , now EWU’s defensive coordinator. Current associate head coach and defensive line coach Eti Ena led the winning White squad. The remainder of EWU’s assistants were split up, while Best roamed the field as an observer.
Ten seniors – five for each team serving as co-captains — were predetermined and made the selections under the watchful eye of “commissioner” Best. The teams alternated picks, and once a team made a draft selection, the other team had to select a player at the same position.
The Eagles resume practices for the 2018 season in August, and will open at home against Central Washington on Sept. 1 in a game announced this week. Eastern has 56 returning letterwinners returning, including an offensive unit with nine starters back. The Eastern defense has eight returning starters, including letter winners at two other positions with considerable starting experience. Seven offensive players and five defensive players have previously earned All-Big Sky accolades.
Eastern closed the season 7-4 overall and in a tie for third in the Big Sky Conference with a 6-2 record. It’s the 11th-straight season the Eagles have finished 5-3 or better in the Big Sky. The Eagles also secured their record 11th-straight winning season and 20th in the last 22 years.