Smoke continues to plague Eastern Washington’s practice plans

FARGO — Before trying to solve North Dakota State on Saturday, Sept. 9, Eastern Washington’s football team is trying to figure out how to practice. Smoke from wildfires in the Pacific Northwest has forced the Eagles indoors so far this week.

They worked out in their fieldhouse on Tuesday and as of late Wednesday morning, head coach Aaron Best still wasn’t sure what his team was going to do. The air quality on Wednesday was termed “hazardous” for the third straight day, according to The Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane.

“As we speak, conversations have been about contingency plans,” Best said. “There’s no panic. It’s out of our control and therefore we’re doing what’s best for our kids with what we have to use as resources.”

The closest indoor football facility to Cheney, Wash., is the University of Idaho’s Kibbie Dome, located 75 miles away in Moscow. It’s turned into a major issue with the area’s sporting public. The Spokane Indians postponed their minor league playoff baseball game on Tuesday and moved it to Vancouver, B.C. on Wednesday.

Division II Central Washington University moved its football game on Saturday with Western Oregon to the Seattle area. Whitworth University, an NCAA Division III school in Spokane, is looking to move its home game.

The weather is forecast to change Thursday night into Friday morning, with winds expected to move the smoke away from the eastern part of Washington. It still meant the Eagles football team hadn’t solidified practice for Thursday, much less Wednesday.

“It’s a situation where we’re waiting to hear back,” Best said. “It’s unfortunate. It’s not a direct simulation of a game or field, but it’s what we have. We’re forced to adjust.”

Best was asked if it’s a concern in preparation for the 3 p.m. CST Saturday kickoff against the Bison. It’s a matchup of the No. 2 (NDSU) and sixth-ranked (EWU) teams in the FCS top 25 coaches poll.

“It doesn’t worry me at all,” he said. “It’s not ideal, but it’s what’s given to us. You can’t worry about what you don’t have. Mother Nature speaks and I’m excited the kids will have an opportunity. It’s not ideal, especially against a great opponent, but there’s nothing we can do about it and everything within 200 miles has some conditions.”

Meanwhile, the Eagles are trying to figure out how to solve some of the problems that plagued them in a 56-10 loss at Texas Tech last week. It was the fewest points Eastern has scored in a game since 2010.

“You’re only allowed to focus on the task and game ahead,” Best said. “To be honest, it was a tough pill to swallow. These individuals are not used to this in terms of a losing factor but it also gets those guys hungry to move forward. We’re eager and ready to face a very good North Dakota State team at home.”