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Eastern Washington notebook: Dre’ Sonte Dorton’s big day captures attention of many

UPDATED: Tue., Sept. 10, 2019

Eastern Washington’s Dre’ Sonte Dorton  runs after a reception against Lindenwood at Roos Field in Cheney on Sept. 7, 2019. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)
Eastern Washington’s Dre’ Sonte Dorton runs after a reception against Lindenwood at Roos Field in Cheney on Sept. 7, 2019. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)

It was a wild 48 hours for Dre’ Sonte Dorton.

After the Eastern Washington senior broke former teammate and Los Angeles Rams receiver Cooper Kupp’s school single-game receiving record on Saturday, praise flooded the Pasco native’s phone faster than his fifth-gear feet.

In the Eagles’ 59-31 dispatching of a NCAA Division II school – Lindenwood University of St. Charles, Missouri – Dorton hauled in 15 passes for 289 yards and three touchdowns, just better than Kupp’s 275 yards against Northern Colorado in 2015.

In the process, he wore Kupp’s old jersey No. 10, a recent change from his former No. 87 the past four years.

The third-year pro noticed.

“Dorton! Huge game!,” Kupp, from Yakima, tweeted on Saturday. “Proud of you, big dog. And I’m loving the number change!.”

Another player on the Rams’ 53-man roster who played his college ball at EWU, rookie receiver Nsimba Webster, also congratulated Dorton on Twitter.

By Monday afternoon, the Football Championship Subdivision was aware of Dorton’s feat, which was still shy of the Big Sky Conference’s single-game receiving record (333 yards, by North Dakota’s Greg Hardin in 2012 vs. Montana).

The former Chiawana High star football player and sprinter was named the STATS FCS National Player of the Week.

Quite the weekend for a player who had 220 total career receiving yards heading into the Lindenwood game. In high school, the multipurpose talent totaled 398 receiver yards as a senior.

Dorton may have seen his emergence coming.

“It’s my senior year, and everything is going by fast, everything is clicking,” Dorton said after EWU’s first fall scrimmage last month. “I’m moving faster, and really in it this year.”

Dorton was held to one catch for 6 yards against a Washington’s young, stout secondary in a 47-14 loss to the Huskies in Week 1.

In the Week 2 rout against Lindenwood, a game in which EWU had a school-record 769 yards, leading receiver Andrew Boston opted to sit out, nursing a minor injury – he’s expected to return this week – and Dorton took advantage of his absence.

Dorton, who had made some nice plays over the past two seasons, wasn’t high on the depth chart.

His 78-yard touchdown reception on the first play from scrimmage showed off Dorton’s home-run speed for the first time since 2017, when he ran back a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown at Southern Utah.

Is he the fastest player on the team, or is that fleet-footed quarterback Eric Barriere?

Neither.

“Dennis (Merritt) is the fastest,” Dorton said of the running back who appeared to suffer a season-ending leg injury on Saturday.

Fourth-ranked EWU (1-1) travels to Jacksonville, Alabama, on Saturday to face 17th-ranked Jacksonville State (1-1) in a marquee game.

TE Gilder receives extra action

At 6-foot-4, 250 pounds, Eagles tight end Jayce Gilder blossomed into a reliable target in 2018, hauling in 20 passes for 237 yards and seven touchdowns.

The fifth-year senior is being worked into the offense more in first-year offensive coordinator Ian Shoemaker’s system.

Gilder ranks second on the team in receptions (eight for 77 yards) and would have a couple of more if not for a pair of rare drops against Washington,

“Our tight end group loves it, that opportunity to make plays,” Gilder said. “Last year we made our mark a little bit.”

QB Barriere continues progress

Instead of buying into his preseason hype, Barriere, a preseason Walter Payton Award candidate, said he thinks of his past hiccups.

“At Northern Colorado last year, there were a couple of times we should have scored but didn’t, because I made a couple bad throws,” Barriere said. “That stuff still pushes me.”

He has since focused on his footwork, his said, and not forcing plays, something he did a few times last season when he threw nine interceptions in 10 starts.

It’s appears to be paying off.

For the first time as a collegiate starter, Barriere has gone back-to-back games without throwing an interception, completing 53 of 81 passes for 733 yards and six touchdowns.

Home sellout streak ends

EWU went 30 consecutive regular-season home football games with a sellout crowd.

That streak ended during the Eagles’ home opener against Lindenwood, which brought in 6,785 fans, well below EWU’s 2018 home opener against Central Washington (8,658).

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