Eastern football ranked 23rd and 25th in polls

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

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Despite a first round loss to Northern Iowa in the Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs, the Eastern football team found itself ranked in the top 25 in the final FCS polls.

North Dakota continued its dominance in the FCS as they won their fifth consecutive FCS National Championship. North Dakota was the unanimous No. 1 vote in the FCS Media poll and the Coaches Poll.

Eastern was ranked 23rd in the FCS Coaches poll and 25th in the STATS FCS Media Top 25. The Panthers finished the season 7-5 after losing the first three games, including a 41-0 shutout to North Western and losses to instate rivals Western and Illinois State.

The Panthers finished 7-1 in Ohio Valley Conference matchups with the one loss coming to OVC champion Jacksonville State. Jacksonville State finished second in the polls with 13-2 record.

Sam Houston State finished third in the rankings, Richmond finished fourth and Illinois State was ranked fifth to round out the top five. Charleston Southern, McNeese State, Northern Iowa, Chattanooga Portland State rounded out the top ten in the FCS coaches poll and the STATS Media Poll.

Senior quarterback Jalen Whitlow led the Panther’s offense. Whitlow passed for 1,909 yards, completing 171 of 330 passes. His longest pass went for 80 yards.

Redshirt junior running back Devin Church was the leading rusher for the Panther’s offense with 783 yards on 167 attempts. Redshirt senior running back Shepard Little added 467 yards on the ground to the Panther’s offense.

Church was also targeted the most by Whitlow in the passing game, receiving 36 passes for 254 yards. Redshirt junior wide receiver Isaiah Nelson led the team with 347 receiving yards on 22 receptions.

Junior line backer Seth McDonald was the Panther’s tackle leader with 109 total, 57 of which went unassisted. Sophomore safety Bradley Dewberry had the second most tackles with 73. Redshirt senior defensive tackle Dino Fanti was the Panther’s sack leader with 7.5 for a total of 51 yards.

The list goes on as to who contributed to the Panthers success on the field this year earning themselves a pair of top 25 rankings.

The Panthers have spring ball coming up in a few months, with the countdown to their next season already underway.

 

Sean Hastings can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]