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CWU football

Central Washington head coach Chris Fisk addresses his team before practice on. Fisk officially enters his second season at the helm of the Wildcats and will play just one game this spring against Montana.

It nearly felt like a normal game week for the Central Washington football team, which after sitting out the fall and practicing for months without a game to play will finally lace it up against Montana this Saturday.

Though it’s their only game of the spring season, and head coach Chris Fisk confirmed they would be looking to the fall after Saturday, the Wildcats scheduled this game to win it. This isn’t a glorified spring game for CWU.

“For us, this is our Super Bowl this year,” Fisk said. “This is no different than Tom Brady lacing it up for the Buccaneers. This is one shot, one game against a Division I opponent with twice as many scholarships, so yeah, we’re going to try and win this thing.”

It’s been nearly a year and a half since the Wildcats last played, and with a one-off game against a Division I, Big Sky opponent, they’re excited for the opportunity to play again.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, you don’t get many days like this out here,” All-America tailback Michael Roots said. “Football is short, so you make the best of it. We count every day as a blessing.”

CWU football

Senior All-America running back Michael Roots runs a punt return drill in Central Washington’s practice on Tuesday. Roots ran for over 1,500 yards in 2019 and will enter his final year of eligibility for the Wildcats this fall.

Roots will help spearhead an experienced offensive attack after rushing for over 1,500 yards in 2019, and will be joined by four returning starters on the offensive line and their top two receivers.

At quarterback, junior Christian Moore is the presumed starter heading into the fall, but the Wildcats also have decent talent behind him in redshirt freshman JJ Lemming and junior Jack Smith.

CWU’s defense has much less returning production, with a strong mix of incoming transfers and a large signing class. Led by senior linebacker Donte Hamilton, the Wildcats defense is excited to see what it’ll look like for the fall.

“We got length, we’ve got some guys on the backend, some transfers, we’re probably not as inexperienced as we are on paper,” Fisk said. “We feel pretty good about that part of our defense.”

Central is well aware of the challenge it faces this weekend against one of the best teams in the FCS. After playing Idaho tough in 2019, the Wildcats felt they learned some important lessons that may help them secure an upset against the Grizzlies.

The Wildcats have a history of playing Division I team’s tough, but have yet to pull out a big win in recent years. This Saturday will be another opportunity to put CWU on the map.

“Honestly, I do remember being really nervous going into there,” Hamilton said about the 41-31 loss to Idaho in 2019. “Once that first series was over it was kind of like, ‘we’re just playing football,’ you know? They may be a little bigger but that’s it, we’re just playing football. I remember that Idaho game was really fun, it was a close game, but we just want to come out there with a different result.”

Hamilton recognized that a lot of Division II schools feel an immense pressure to try and spring the upset, and that their eyes get too big. As someone who has experience playing on the road against a Division I team, Hamilton has said the experience from top to bottom is going to help them this Saturday.

“If we don’t let the moment get too big for us, we’ll be fine,” he said.

For Roots and the offense, it’s simply another football game, and another opportunity to put on for CWU.

CWU football

Junior receiver Tyson Rainwater catches a pass in one-on-one drills during a CWU practice on Tuesday.

“Like any other game, they’re human just like me, they make mistakes just like me,” Roots said. “I don’t go in there with a big head thinking I’ll go in there and dominate them. It’s going to be a physical game, and the best man is going to win.”

More than anything though, it’s a chance for these athletes, who have worked so hard and had to watch college football from their coaches this past fall, to finally put on a Wildcat uniform and play football on a big stage.

With so much pent up energy from months of practice, CWU is looking forward to hitting someone else.

“It’s going to be so exciting, I have so much juice we have to let out that we’ve been holding in from winter from the fall when we were here that we were holding in,” Root said. “We’ve dealt with so much adversity, to be able to come out and play, there’s going to be a lot of energy.”

The Wildcats will play their one and only football game this season against the Grizzlies in Montana at 10 a.m. PT.

Reach Sports Editor Alec Dietz at Twitter: @AlecDietz

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