The Eagles started preparing for their FCS semifinal against Maine today in Cheney, but the weather conditions were not ideal.
The squad made the best of the situation and they're definitely thankful to be one of the last four team practicing at the FCS level.
"Honestly I think we all thought it was beautiful weather," said offensive lineman Spencer Blackburn of the snow. "It's pretty fun. We had Christmas music going. It was a great environment. We're going to remember this practice more than any other practice this year yet."
"There's not too many things in life where you can say you're one of four," said Head Coach Aaron Best. "We have the opportunity to be one of two if we score more points on Saturday. The guys were rejuvenated. They were energized this morning."
Maine took down Weber State last week. By the way, the Weber State Wildcats are the only team that has beaten Eastern on the FCS level this year.
The way Maine did it? An incredibly stout defense.
They intercepted Weber State four times and the Wildcats ended up with -1 yards rushing.
Expect an all out brawl on the Red this weekend.
"They're very similar when you look in the mirror. What Weber presented us mid-season is what Maine will present us post-season," said Best. "It'll be fun. It'll be physical. It'll be one of those old-school brawls, if you will. Knowing that not every play is going to be a highlight. There may be a four-yard run that ends up being a highlight."
The last time Eastern Washington went to the national championship game was the 2010 season, but the team has gotten close multiple times since. The latest being in 2016 when the team lost in the FCS semifinals.
There are a ton of players on this squad that were on that team, and they are motivated to get over the hump and get to Frisco.
"We want it bad," said defensive back Josh Lewis. "I think anyone at this point wants it bad, but I mean being a part of a team that was so close and just came up a little bit short, it stings a little bit and I think it's going to push us even more to just get over the hump because we weren't able to last time."
The individual accolades rolling in for this team as well. Kicker Roldan Alcobendas was named an FCS First Team All-American while offensive lineman Spencer Blackburn and defensive lineman Jay-Tee Tiuli were named to the second team. Yesterday Alcobendas was also named the Fred Mitchell Outstanding Place Kicker of Year.
"Honestly, I was pretty speechless," said Alcobendas of receiving the Fred Mitchell Award. "I was just at a loss for words. I just feel truly honored and blessed to be even recognized for this award."
"We were walking right into our team meeting and they were like, 'Hey, congrats," and I was like, 'For what?' Then they let me know and that was pretty cool," said Blackburn of how he found out. "Coach Best congratulated the rest of us and said now it's time to move on."