Football: Eastern Washington will have lots of local flavor in opener against UW

Husky Stadium in Seattle will be rocking Saturday afternoon. The University of Washington opens its 2011-12 football season against the Eastern Washington Eagles, who sport four former Federal Way high school stars.

Eastern is also coming off a national championship season. The Eagles downed Delaware to claim the Football Championship Series (formerly Division I-AA) title in November. Beamer graduate Evan Cook, Decatur’s Chase King and Federal Way’s Trenton Pinson will be on the Eagles’ active roster Saturday, while former Federal Way Eagle, Andru Pulu, won’t make the trip to Seattle.

Eastern received 23 of the 28 first-place votes to earn 687 points overall and have been ranked first in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Preseason Coaches Poll released Monday. A week earlier, the Eagles were ranked No. 1 in The Sports Network/ FCS Preseason Top 25, gaining 90 of the 140 first-place votes.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun preparing for them,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin, who graduated in 1990 from Curtis High School. “So many of our players have grown up in Tacoma, Seattle, north of Seattle, south of Tacoma. Probably over half our team is from the area if you were to break it down. They grew up watching Washington games and I grew up watching games at Husky Stadium or on TV. So to be in that environment against a Pac-12 team couldn’t get any better.”

But the biggest potential Federal Way subplot to the UW-EWU matchup will not come to fruition. Pulu, the former Washington Husky, was ruled ineligible by the NCAA after transferring to Eastern Washington last year. The defensive tackle won’t make the trip to Husky Stadium or play for the Eagles the entire season.

According to an Eastern spokesman, the NCAA recently denied a transfer waiver because Pulu didn’t meet the transfer rules because he had not completed a year of residency at EWU. The school requested a waiver after Pulu was dismissed for the UW program after pleading guilty to an assault charge.

Pulu sat out the 2010 season for the Huskies after being sentenced to six months in jail in connection with an attack on a fellow athlete in March 2010. Pulu pled guilty to felony second-degree assault in King County Court.

He played in 12 games as a true freshman at Washington in 2009. Pulu will remain with the Eastern Washington program and will be eligible in 2012 and will have two years of eligibility remaining.

Cook, a junior defensive lineman, has started 13 games for the Eagles during his career. The 6-foot-3, 280-pounder is currently listed as a backup on the Eagles’ depth chart because he was limited during the spring because of surgery following a shoulder injury suffered last season.

Cook had a career-high five tackles during a 36-27 win over Montana on Sept. 18. He started in 10 games as a freshman in 2009.

King, also a junior, has made a position change this season. The 6-foot-1, 215-pounder spent his first three seasons in Cheney as a running back, but is now playing linebacker for the Eagles.

King is also listed as a backup and didn’t play at all during the 2010 season because of knee surgery. He last played in 2009 when he carried the ball 22 times for 83 yards for Eastern.

Pinson redshirted last year after a stellar senior season at Federal Way in 2009. The freshman is listed as the third-string left cornerback for Eastern after spending last year as a wide receiver.

Saturday’s Washington-Eastern Washington game will kickoff at 4 p.m. and will be televised on Root Sports.

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