Just another playoff game. A new season, new expectations and the start of a new path for the Eastern Washington Eagles football team.
Missing out on the playoffs in 2015, I sat in the press box pondering this thought. Another playoff game.
2014 was the last time the Eagles were in, and hosted, an FCS playoff game. I was sitting in the same seat in the press box when EWU lost 59-46 to Illinois State in 2014. It was a game I won’t forget because I found myself praying.
No, not praying for a game or result or team. I was praying for what was playing out below me.
I was the first one in the press box to notice the cluster of people in the stands. Late December nights out in Cheney can be bitterly cold, especially when the team is losing late in the game. A cluster of people together in the emptying stands could’ve just been folks trying to stay warm.
But, they weren’t focused on the game. Something else was happening.
Medical emergencies happen. And sometimes they happen at a football game. Every so often they affect a player and their family.
Sadly, John Rodgers, father of then-EWU player Jake Rodgers, never recovered. He passed away shortly after Christmas 2014.
As I sat in front of my computer to write a game-story for this 2016 playoff opener, no ideas came to mind. Despite the 31-14 victory over the Central Arkansas Bears, it was a bit of a struggle for the Eagles. But that’s playoff football. Nothing new to write about there.
Looking at the stat lines, I suppose I could have focused on how well the depleted linebacking corp played. Or, how 11 different EWU players caught a pass – a group that went without reigning Player of the Year, Cooper Kupp, for all but a minute of the second half.
Maybe it’s odd that nothing came to me for a story. Definitely not the way to go for young writers out there. You should always write, they say.
Well, I’m writing…it’s just not the story I thought I would write.
I still think about Jake Rodgers from time-to-time when I enter Roos Field. I’ll check on his progress in the NFL (he just signed with the Carolina Panthers practice squad). And, I’ll remember.
I’ll remember that day, at this time of year…
A few game photos from the 31-14 EWU win
NOTE: After their 31-14 win on Saturday, the Eastern Washington Eagles will face the Richmond Spiders on December 10th. The Spiders upset the North Dakota Fighting Hawks in a 27-24 thriller in Grand Forks on Saturday.