Eastern playing for seniors in season finale


Chynna Miller

Red-shirt senior, Adam Drake runs with the ball, as Tennessee State defensive back Andrew Dale closes in on him at O’Brien Field on Oct. 25. Drake is one 19 senior who will play their final game at noon Saturday at O’Brien Field against Tennessee-Martin.

Aldo Soto, Sports Editor

At 5-6 overall, 5-2 in Ohio Valley Conference play and out of the FCS Playoff picture, Eastern football coach Kim Dameron and his team still have a lot to play for, as the Panthers host Tennessee-Martin at noon Saturday in O’Brien Field.

Eastern will have 19 seniors playing in their final collegiate game, while they also try to finish the year with an even record and not end with a losing mark since 2011.

“We’re gonna play hard and our kids are gonna play for these seniors,” Dameron said. “These seniors have won two conference championships here and they’ve done a lot for this program.”

Tennessee-Martin, which is also 5-6 this season, has won four straight OVC games after starting conference play 0-3. A fifth win in conference and a 6-6 record would mean a lot for Skyhawks’ coach Jason Simpson.

“It would give us momentum heading into the offseason and that would get us to 5-3 in the league and our seniors would’ve won 20 conference games and average five a year in their tenure here as we continue to build our legacy and some tradition here,” Simpson said.

The Panthers had their four-game winning streak snapped by Jacksonville State, losing 27-20, but if they win Saturday, Eastern would have 12 consecutive home wins against OVC teams in the last three seasons, while finishing with a 20-3 conference record, starting in 2012.

“A win would be monumental,” Dameron said.

“Unbelievable. I look at this (Tennessee-Martin) game like when I was coaching in places where we played in bowl games. The way you play in the bowl game and the way you finished the season was very instrumental to the type of offseason that you went in to.”

Last season, Eastern ended the year with a home loss in the quarterfinals of the FCS Playoffs against Towson – a game played under the snow at O’Brien Field.

Dameron hasn’t had to play in snow yet this year, but he is getting a glimpse of it for the first time this season, as 2.6 inches have fallen in Charleston during the past couple of days.

Adding to the first snowfall has been temperatures dipping below freezing, plateauing in the lower 20s.

“It’s gonna be a cold week, but maybe not as cold on Saturday but this time of year we know that we’re going to play in some cold and some wind and even some rain,” Dameron said.

Eastern’s final game will not feature snowy conditions like it did last year, but senior day does have rain in its forecast. For Dameron and the Panthers, Saturday’s game is one final chance to play a complete game and not finish the season with a losing record.

“We’re just wanting to make sure that our last time together out there as a football team that we go out and execute, we play hard, we play for 60 minutes and win a football game,” Dameron said. “We’re looking to finish this out the right way. How you finish is critical to us.”

Aldo Soto can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].