Fanti Sparks second-half surge in 28-3 Eastern win

Blake Nash, Staff Reporter

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Eastern defensive lineman Dino Fanti had just rushed past an offensive lineman, when he noticed the Tennessee State quarterback look right to pass to a receiver that was covered by defensive back Anthony Goodman.

Fanti saw his teammate fighting off a screen, trying to get to the open receiver, right before he blindsided the quarterback, Ronald Butler, into throwing an errant pass. Goodman intercepted that pass, and returned it for 46 yards and a touchdown, helping the Panthers to their 28-3 Homecoming win Saturday at O’Brien Field.

“It’s always big when you score on defense,” Eastern head coach Kim Dameron said. “That was a huge play by the defense and it was probably the play of the day.”

Fanti finished with five total tackles, including four solos, one assist and two tackles for losses.

He also played a huge role late in the first half, when he stopped the Tennessee State offense on fourth and goal from the one-yard line.

The interception by Goodman put the Panthers up 14-3, with a little more than two minutes remaining in the third quarter.

“Pressure always helps in those situations,” Fanti said. “We knew Tennessee State would have other chances to score with that offense of theirs, but we know how we need to play to win and that play was a huge part of today’s win.”

Goodman was forced into playing a bigger role in the game, following the loss of DJ Bland to injury.

“When DJ got injured I was a little exhausted physically, but I felt strong mentally,” Goodman said.

Goodman noticed all the screens that Tennessee State was running throughout the game, and ran past the blocker and caught the unaccurate pass.

“That’s every DB’s dream to run with the football, with an open field ahead,” Goodman said.

He finished with four tackles, including two solo tackles and two assists, along with one pass breakup.

Dameron praised his defense, which allowed only 287 yards, while forcing three turnovers, as Eastern improved to 3-1 in the Ohio Valley Conference.

“I’m proud of our defense,” he said. “They kept fighting and fighting and helped limit Tennessee State’s running game.”

Dameron was also proud of the Eastern offense, especially with their efficiency in running out the clock to end the game.

“We beat one of the top teams in the OVC today and our running game in the second half was very effective,” Dameron said.

Running back Shepard Little led the Panthers running game, with 130 yards and one touchdown, on 12 carries, despite only playing the second half. Dameron did not specify the reason for why Little was a no-show in the first half.

“That was between him and me,” Dameron said. “I’ll admit that he’s a warrior and runs with his pads down and he played a huge part of today’s game.”

Quarterback Jalen Whitlow finished with 110 yards on 12 carries, while also completing 8-of-14 passes for 76 yards for Eastern.

Blake Nash can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]