CHENEY, Wash. — "Winter" football camp kicks off on Friday for both Idaho and Eastern Washington.
Football in February isn't exactly common in the Inland Northwest, but Big Sky preseason player of the year Eric Barriere is ready.
"I'm getting more and more comfortable, so I'm just going to let it all display this year. I'm excited," said Barriere with his well-known wide grin.
When the Eags’ first game of the year kicks off at the end of February it will be more than 15 months since Barriere and his teammates played in a football game.
"It’s been pretty long, I’m not gonna lie. It’s going to feel kind of weird to get back out there, but I think we’re all excited to just get back and finally playing the game that we love," said Barriere.
There was a bit of a scare for Eastern and the other seven Big Sky schools playing conference games this year a few weeks ago when multiple Big Sky teams opted out of the season, including top 10 ranked Montana and Montana State.
"We weren’t really too focused on that because we know where we were at mentally and what we we're going through this spring. We know a lot of the Big Sky teams dropped out, but that still didn’t change us," said Barriere.
Something that the team is looking to change, though, is their record this season.
They finished 7-5 last year and missed the playoffs, which is below the program’s standards.
"Last year, I just think we wasn’t on the same page a little bit. Towards the end of the season you could tell things started to click for us, but it was kind of too late by then. I think this offseason we've just been trying to gel together, players and coaching staff more," said Barriere.
One of the games that was the most frustrating last year for Eastern was their loss to Idaho in the Kibbie Dome. The Eags and Vandals will face off twice this year due to the changes in the Big Sky’s schedule.
Barriere is ready.
"I still remember that game from last year. It’s still in my head. I can literally picture that game, clear as day. I'm excited to finally get back out there, especially them being the first and last game too. It’s big, for sure," said Barriere.
The quarterback is definitely looking to make a statement this season.
"I kind of think people been sleeping on us a little bit," said Barriere. "It's a huge motivating factor for us because we missed the playoffs last year, and we got a lot of guys that’s hungry this year with a lot of experience. I just think, if we all put it together, we can do something special this year, for sure."