Eastern’s focus set on OVC

Aldo Soto , Sports Editor

The Eastern football team is 1-4 and in the midst of its bye week, but for head coach Kim Dameron the Panthers’ season begins on Oct. 11.

Following Saturday’s loss at Ohio, the Panthers dropped their fourth non-conference game of the year, but they are 1-0 in the Ohio Valley Conference. With seven OVC games remaining on Eastern’s schedule to close out the season, Dameron said the Panthers have to look ahead instead of dwelling on the first five games.

“The thing that I’ve been looking at and have been trying to do more than anything is keep our kids focused on the Ohio Valley Conference,” he said. “The way I look at it is pretty much right now is that our season starts Oct. 11, at Eastern Kentucky.”

Eastern, the defending two-time OVC champion, is only one of two teams in the conference with a 1-4 record, with Tennessee-Martin being the other. Austin Peay is the only winless team in the conference at 0-3.

With two trips to FBS programs this season, Dameron said the Panthers’ schedule has been difficult to begin the year.

The OVC has one unbeaten team in Eastern Kentucky, which is 4-0. Tennessee State and Jacksonville State are the only two teams that have a single loss, with 4-1 and 3-1 records, respectively.

While Eastern has played against two FBS programs and two nationally ranked FCS teams, the Colonels, Tigers and Gamecocks have combined to play a total of two FBS teams. Tennessee State and Eastern Kentucky also began the season playing against NAIA programs. The Colonels do have the OVC’s lone win against an FBS team, though, beating Miami (Ohio) 17-10 earlier this season.

“That’s always the hardest thing, when you’re looking at your conference’s schools because the schedules of all the teams are not comparable,” Dameron said. “When you look at some people being undefeated and some people being 1-4, you really have no idea. Until we get into conference play the season has really started.”

In a perfect world, Dameron said he would have liked to play against five straight beatable teams to start the season to give Eastern as much confidence as possible before the rest of OVC play. Nonetheless, he said his team has hopefully improved upon their performance and gets better after facing a strong schedule.

“I feel like that we’ve played as tough a schedule as we could have possibly played to be perfectly honest with you,” Dameron said. “I’m hoping that it makes us better going forward. Now, obviously sometimes it doesn’t help your confidence as far as your record is concerned.”

In preparation of the remainder of the conference schedule, Dameron said he is using this bye week to focus on the basics, while introducing some of the game plan against Eastern Kentucky later in the week.

“For the most part we’re interested in getting better right now fundamentally,” he said. “We’re a football team right now that needs to get better physically. It’s critical that we have a good week of practice here in our off week.”

Aldo Soto (@AldoSoto) can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]