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Detroit — Eastern Michigan head coach Chris Creighton talked Tuesday about an off-season mountain climb his 18 seniors took at Pikes Peak in Colorado.

The mountain is 14,115 feet at its peak, and it took Eagles players more than 12 hours to scale the 13 miles, all the while with a 51-pound pipe wrench in tow.

“Every player made it up,” Creighton said. “It was because every player helped each other to go to the summit. It was hard. It’s hard every year. But it’s an awesome time seeing our guys lead and serve each other and help each other.

“I can’t wait for this group to lead and be in charge of this football team.”

Creighton, speaking at Ford Field during the Mid-American Conference football media day, believes the mountain climb bonded and strengthened his team, which went 5-7 last season, 3-5 in the MAC.

Six of those seven losses came down to one possession, with three of the losses in overtime. EMU’s seven losses were by a combined 35 points.

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“Our character got tested through six gut-wrenching losses in a row,” Creighton said. “That’s tough. But our guys never broke, not one time. We ended up winning three of our last four (games) and I’m so proud of them for that.” ­

The Eagles had the MAC’s second-ranked defense last season and should be strong on that side of the ball this season.

“We have a lot of players back from that defense and we graduated some good players, but we also developed guys who are ready to step in and we’ve recruited some players,” Creighton said. “We have very high expectations for our defense.”

EMU will need to determine a starter at quarterback, rebuild its wide-receiver and tight-end positions, although the offensive line is deep and experienced.

Most of all, Creighton wants to make sure what the seniors developed on climbing Pikes Peak can be passed on to all the underclassmen.

“My message to them was we can’t leave what we just experienced, what we’ve just done in Colorado as a senior leadership group, we have to take that to our team and apply it this season,” Creighton said. “If we do that, special things will happen.”

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

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