Spencer Blackburn repeats as top draft choice for Red-White Game - SWX Right Now-Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA

Spencer Blackburn repeats as top draft choice for Red-White Game

Photo: EWU Athletics Photo: EWU Athletics

By Eastern Washington Athletics

By popular demand, teams for this year's Red-White Game will be even more prepared than last year.
The Eastern Washington University football team will conclude spring practices this Saturday (April 28) with the annual Red-White Game at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash., and even moved up the "draft" of players by two days to help teams be better prepared.
 "Three of our spring practices will be leading up to the Red-White, and they'll be practicing more with their teams on what they are going to do on Saturday," said second-year Eagle head coach Aaron Best, whose team held its draft Monday and resume practices on Tuesday.
The game starts at 2:05 p.m. at "The Inferno," and the public is invited to attend at no charge. It will also be aired live regionally on SWX, and a special "Lil EKG Day" for kids pre-school through eighth grade will take place afterwards. That gathering for "Eastern Kind of Grade-Schoolers" includes a few drills and obstacle courses with players, and will be followed by an autograph session. Schedule posters will be distributed beforehand at the Red-White Game.
 The game is taking place in conjunction with the 37th Annual Orland Killin Weekend at EWU, featuring the Orland Killin Dinner, Dance and Auction which takes place later in the day on April 28. More information is available at: http://goeags.com/killin.
The head coach for the Red will be longtime Eagle assistant coach Jeff Schmedding, now EWU's defensive coordinator. Current associate head coach and defensive line coach Eti Ena will lead the White squad. The remainder of EWU's assistants have been split up, while Best will roam the field as an observer of what he hopes will be a better-played game on both sides because of the preparation time.
"In years past when we have done the game, we've kind of had 10 or 15 minutes at the end of practice to practice with your Red or White team," Best explained. "This week we are going designate about a third of the practices for Red and White. The other two-thirds are going to be all Eagles.  So we will give those guys extra time for special teams, for offense/defense, for tricks plays, for anything of that nature. We're both out here at the same time, so it is kind of hard to hide stuff, but there will be stuff up the sleeves of both coordinators on offense."
In Monday's draft, senior center Spencer Blackburn was the No. 1 pick for the second-straight year, but this time went to the Red team of senior nose guard Jay-Tee Tiuli. Last year Blackburn was drafted opposite Tiuli to help block against the 2016 first team All-Big Sky performer, but this year he was drafted as an alternate chess move to potentially allow Tiuli to dominate the inside.
The top pick on defense was senior cornerback Brandon Montgomery, the reigning Golden Eagle award winner after leading the Red to a 24-17 victory in last year's game. He won the MVP award after having nine tackles, an interception he returned 67 yards for a touchdown, a 47-yard fumble recovery and a pass broken up.
Ten seniors – five for each team serving as co-captains -- were predetermined and made the selections under the watchful eye of "commissioner" Aaron 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.
Five of the players on the Red squad were starters on offense for the Eagles last season, including a trio of offensive linemen and All-Big Sky running back Antoine Custer Jr. Four returning defensive starters are on that squad as well.
The White has four offensive starters and three on defense, plus has the team's returning starting kicker in Roldan Alcobendas and fourth-year long snapper Curtis Billen. The White also features record-breaking All-America quarterback Gage Gubrud and linebacker Ketner Kupp, but both of those veterans (as well as Custer on the Red) will see limited snaps this week and were not taken as high in the draft as they perhaps normally would.
The game will include live special teams and a 15-minute running clock in each quarter, with several rules and regulations in place. Quarterbacks will be protected, and location on the field in addition to down-and-distance will determine punt situations and four-down territory for the offenses. Other than that, Best will let the players make plays.
 "Like anything, guys want to compete," he said. "They want the ball put down, and they will determine the situations. This allows us to grow every year. We learn a little bit more every year to be better."
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.

Cumulative Statistics from Scrimmages on 4/13 & 4/21

Rushing: Tamarick Pierce 13-64 1td, Dennis Merritt 27-63 3td, Antoine Custer Jr. 13-54, Gage Gubrud 12-39 1td, Eric Barriere 18-34, Alex Motonaga 3-11, Calvin Cardwell 2-minus-3, Dre' Sonte Dorton 1-minus-6, Gunner Talkington 2-minus-10, Totals 91-246 5td.
Passing: Gage Gubrud 13-of-28 200 yards 2int, Eric Barriere 13-of-27 204 yards 2td, Alex Montonaga 2-of-4 47 yards, Gunner Talkington 6-of-13 68 yards 1int, Totals 34-of-72 519 yards 2td 3int.
Receiving: Terence Grady 6-99 1td, Zach Eagle 5-92 1td, Nsimba Webster 5-61, Andrew Boston 4-51, Dre' Sonte Dorton 3-36, Jayson Williams 3-35, Antoine Custer Jr. 2-76, Dylan Ingram 2-33, Dennis Merritt 2-13, Marques Hampton Jr. 1-12, Talolo Limu-Jones 1-11, Totals 34-519 2td.
Tackles Leaders: Dehonta Hayes 19, Jack Sendelbach 13, Calin Criner 12, Chris Ojoh 11, Andrew Katzenberger 8, Cale Lindsay 8, Ketner Kupp 6, Kedrick Johnson 6, Kurt Calhoun 6, Darnell Hogan 6, Rudolph Mataia Jr. 5, Keith Moore 5, Debore'ae McClain 5, Nzuzi Webster 4, Jim Townsend 4, Conner Baumann 4, Josh Lewis 3, Darreon Moore 3, Brandon Montgomery 3, Jonah Jordan 3, Jay-Tee Tiuli 3, Tysen Prunty 2, Cole Karstetter 2, Blake Ochsner 2, Nick Foerstel 2, Tamir Hill 2, Anthany Smith 2, Ira Branch 1, Xavier Banner 1, Mitchell Johnson 1, Keshaun King 1.
Interceptions: Calin Criner 2, Anthany Smith 1.
Passes Broken Up: Brandon Montgomery 3, Dehonta Hayes 2, Anthany Smith 1, Ira Branch 1, Darreon Moore 1, Nzuzi Webster 1, Kurt Calhoun 1, Jay-Tee Tiuli 1.
Sacks: Kurt Calhoun 2, Darnell Hogan 2, Jay-Tee Tiuli 1, Nick Foerstel 1, Cale Lindsay 1, Jack Sendelbach 1, Jim Townsend 1, Conner Baumann 1, Rudolph Mataia Jr. 1.
Forced Fumble: Keith Moore.
Fumble Recovery: None.


Remaining Spring Practice Schedule

Practices take place various days through April 28. Subject to change, most practices are scheduled to start at 3:30 p.m. (media interviews April 24 at approximately 3:05 p.m.). All practices are scheduled to take place at Roos Field. Scrimmages also take place on the red Sprinturf surface at the "Inferno" in Cheney, Wash.
April 24 - Practice, 3:30 p.m.
April 25 – Practice (no contact), 3:30 p.m.
April 27 – Practice (no pads), 3:30 p.m.
April 28 – Red-White Spring Game, 2 p.m., Roos Field (televised live regionally by SWX)


37th Annual Killin Dinner/Dance/Auction is April 28 at EWU as Part of "Eagle Week"

Tickets are now on sale for the 37th Annual Killin Dinner, Dance and Auction, which is the featured event of "Eagle Week" at Eastern Washington University. Information and the registration link is at: http://goeags.com/killin
The event follows the annual Red-White Spring Football Game on April 28th at 2 p.m. at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash. Eastern's women's soccer team, the two-time defending Big Sky Conference Tournament champion and NCAA Tournament participant, will play Central Washington at 1 p.m. that day on the EWU Soccer Field.
Tickets are $100 per individual and $700 for a table of eight. Killin takes place at the EWU Sports and Recreation Center. The event starts with a social hour and auction at 4:30 p.m., followed by the dinner (6 p.m.), program/presentations/live auction (7 p.m.) and dancing (8 p.m.).
Net proceeds benefit areas of greatest need within Eastern Athletics. The event is named in honor of Orland Killin, who, along with his wife Bernice, helped create the event. Killin was a man immensely dedicated to academics and the integrity of Eastern Washington University, serving as professor, faculty athletic representative and faculty president. He was an Eastern football letter winner in 1941-42.
There is no admission charged for the Red-White Game and the women's soccer game.

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