November 22, 2012 | Vol. 116 -- No. 31

Road to FCS championship passes through Cheney

No. 2-seeded Eastern will host games at Roos as long as Eagles win

Cheney has transcontinental railroads that pass through it, and a pretty busy state highway too.

Now, as of Sunday morning’s Football Championship Subdivision selection show, the road to Frisco, Texas and the January 5 championship game also leads through town as Eastern Washington earned the No. 2 playoff seed.

That means the Eagles get a first-round playoff bye and two weeks off to prepare for a Dec. 1 meeting with the winner of the Staten Island-based Wagner versus Colgate play-in game that takes place Saturday in Hamilton, N.Y. Kickoff is set for 3:05 p.m. at Roos Field.

With a 41-34 win at rainy Portland State last Saturday, Cal Poly’s 42-34 win over Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, and the Eagles’ earlier 27-24 win in Bozeman, Eastern earned the automatic berth in the upcoming Football Championship Subdivision playoffs as the Big Sky’s top finisher.

“I’m extremely happy,” Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin said. “The level of teams that the selection committee has to sort through is a tough job. It’s always a tough decision and it is every year.

Tickets went on sale Nov. 19 and cost $20 for premium seating in sections C and D, $15 for sections A/B/E and F, $15 for end zone and $10 for east side seating (behind visitor bench). Tickets may be purchased via ticketswest.com or 1-800-325-SEAT.

Current season ticket holders have until Monday, Nov. 26 at 5 p.m. to call EWU at 509-359-6059 to purchase their existing seats, at which time those will be released to the general public. An announcement regarding availability of tickets for EWU students will be forthcoming.

Defending FCS champion North Dakota State is the No. 1 seed, Montana State No. 3 with Old Dominion and Georgia Southern rounding out seeded teams. The top five teams are guaranteed home games as long as they are the higher-seeded team in their match-up and have met NCAA guidelines to host.

“That was a good bracket show,” Eastern athletics director Bill Chaves said Monday morning.

Chaves was not at all disappointed because he thought Eastern’s “resume” as he called it was solid. “Honestly, I truly thought going in we would get either a two, three or four,” Chaves said. “Based on the resumes I thought the (selection) committee did a good job.”

It’s consistent with what Chaves has seen over the past couple of years, he said. “I think you’re just taking the body of work versus the body of work,” he said.

Chaves likened things to 2010 when Eastern was on a seven-game winning streak, was ranked No. 1 in FCS polls at the end of the regular season but fifth-seeded. A first-round loss by Montana State earned Eastern home games in the final two rounds en route to the title game, also in Frisco.

Northern Arizona finished 6-2 and 8-3, won eight in a row, but “Unfortunately they lost two home games,” Chaves said of the Lumberjacks’ snub. “We’ve always said that every week is its own season,” Chaves said. “You can put yourself in a position but then you still have to continue to do the things you gotta’ do.”

Was there any contingency plan in place had the Eagles faltered in Portland Saturday?

“We really didn’t,” Chaves said. “Here’s the deal, I knew that there were going to be a number of schools at 8-3 that were either going to be left out or were going to get a bye and maybe a home game. You’re at the complete mercy of what’s going to transpire when the committee releases the information.”

It’s no different than what’s transpired in years past Chaves said. “This is only the second time of all the times we’ve had playoffs that we’ve been seeded.”

“We are used to finding out what it is and dealing with it,” Chaves explained, reminding of Eastern’s need to quickly get to McNeese State in Louisiana in 2007 and to Texas to meet Stephen F. Austin in 2009.

The No. 1 or No. 2 mean a lot to both the teams hosting, and their fans. “That puts us in a different position to market the games now,” Chaves said. “If we keep winning we have home games so we can reward people who purchase early on.”

And as for the winning portion of things, Baldwin has that target in his sights, much the same way he’s approaches things from Day One.

“Once you are in the playoffs, we are all doing the same thing -- trying to take care of business one week at a time and see what happens,” Baldwin said. “We are excited to be where we are.”

Paul Delaney can be reached at pdelaney@cheneyfreepress.com.

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