It’s been five days since Eastern Washington stunned Oregon State, and it still is all anyone around the program can talk about.
The shocking 49-46 victory for the Eagles in Corvallis was thanks to the stellar play of everyone on the team, including two former Tri-City residents.
Sophomores Aaron Neary (Hanford High) and Miquiyah Zamora (Chiawana) both played significant minutes in the upset.
Neary is splitting time at right guard with Brandon Murphy, while Zamora converted to linebacker and made his collegiate debut Saturday.
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“I was definitely nervous,” Zamora said. “We walked out and you just follow all of their fans, just a wave of orange and black. It was really nerve-wracking — and the noise on top of everything. It was pretty crazy.”
It got crazier, as the Eagles jumped out to a 29-17 halftime lead, stunning the crowd of 41,649. The Beavers came out of the break and scored two quick touchdowns to take a 32-29 lead, but Eastern shook it off.
“It sucks to take a blow like that — back-to-back touchdowns,” Neary said, “but the mindset with us on offense was we just got to get down there and score. If we scored every time we had the ball, we’d win. We punted once in the second half.
“Never once did we get discouraged. It was confidence the whole way.”
The teams traded touchdowns the rest of the way, with Eastern scoring the game-winner on a 2-yard run by quarterback Vernon Adams with 18 seconds left.
Oregon State had a final chance, but a 52-yard field goal attempt by Trevor Romaine was off.
“I thought it went in,” Zamora said. “One of my teammates, Cody McCarthy, ran onto the field going crazy, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, we did it.’ It was really overwhelming to see the looks on my teammates faces. It was priceless.”
The Eagles spent the last two months getting ready for Oregon State, planning on pulling of the upset. It worked.
“It was awesome preparing for (the game),” Neary said. “I’ve never prepared for a game like I did for that game. Just building up to it, especially in the locker room ... the atmosphere, knowing that according to the media and according to Oregon State, this was a ‘body bag’ game for them. They were going to (beat us) and get some confidence.
“But we knew we could compete. It was awesome.”
Now, the Eagles have to get ready for Western Oregon, a Division II team that would love to reverse roles from last weekend.
“That is definitely difficult. Even today people are wanting to talk about that and we are three days away from another game,” Neary said Wednesday. “It was great exposure for our program. Saturday was great, Sunday we took it all in, but as soon as the weekend was over, we got back to work. We understand as players what we need to do to prepare.”
Neary had a great spring and summer, launching him into a position to get major minutes. He and Murphy are splitting starting duties.
“We have two great offensive lines this year,” Neary said. “Our starters are very talented, and our backups could start at any other school in the Big Sky. That just helps the program. Helps get everyone in the game, let everyone catch their breath and everyone is just ready and knows what they need to do when they get in.”
On the other side of the ball, Zamora isn’t starting, but he expected to see a lot of time on the field. He made two solo tackles against Oregon State.
He was a defensive back in high school, but made the switch to linebacker after fall camp last season.
“It has really come natural to me,” he said. “I feel like this is a spot for me and I can get pretty good at linebacker by the time it is all said and done.”
Zamora is taking it slowly, as he is still working on reading receivers and running backs at his new position, though he is confident he is starting to put it together.
For now, though, the focus is on the team and making sure they follow up Saturday’s shocker with a strong rest of the season.
“Hopefully we can go back to Frisco (Texas) like the 2010 team did,” Zamora said. “I’d really like to make that dream a reality. I think it would be really fun and let them know Eastern is back on top.”
CBBN reunion: Another key to Saturday’s victory was the play of wide receiver Cooper Kupp, a graduate of Davis High in Yakima.
Kupp had two touchdown receptions in the first half, scoring on passes of 31 and 48 yards. He finished with five receptions for 119 yards.
“His work ethic is off the charts,” Neary said. “I played basketball and football against him, and while we didn’t know each other, it is neat to come together on the same team and know what each other is about.”