What started as a promising season quickly turned into one to forget, but the Eastern football team has one last chance to play like the team it started as in its last game of the season against Eastern Kentucky on the road.
The only thing lying on this game is if Eastern finishes with a winning record or a losing record.
And after Eastern’s loss to Tennessee-Martin, redshirt junior wide receiver Addison Bounds said a losing-record season is unacceptable.
For the seniors on the roster, this is the last time they will strap on their black Eastern helmet and their usual white road jerseys.
Bounds said this week is about finishing with a winning record, and it is about sending off the seniors the right way.
The Panthers have lost their last three games to Murray State, Jacksonville State and Tennessee-Martin, giving them a 5-5 record.
Eastern Kentucky is 2-5 this season and if the Eastern team that started the season shows up Saturday, what Bounds said can come true.
“There is a huge, huge difference between a winning record and a non-winning record, and that’s something that as a program and a tradition here that we don’t even want to think about doing in having a losing season,” coach Kim Dameron said.
Eastern still had success throughout the season with redshirt senior running back Devin Church making impacts in more ways than one, and when healthy, redshirt junior quarterback Mitch Kimble was crucial to the Panther offense.
In his first season running the Eastern offense, Kimble shined with spurts of greatness, but he was plagued by injuries on more than one occasion.
Kimble dealt with an upper body injury early in the season, suffered a forearm injury against Murray State and then an ankle injury against Jacksonville State kept him out against Tennessee-Martin.
Dameron prided his team on defense and offensively always had a second quarterback ready to go.
The defense held strong early in the season, but on just one too many occasions, things kind of fell apart and put the Panther offense in a hole.
And vice versa — when the Eastern offense struggled, it sometimes put the defense up against the wall and made it difficult to limit the points put up by opposing teams.
Something that was not present early in the season but showed up a lot at the end of the season was turnovers.
In the Panthers’ final two home games of the season, they combined for 13 turnovers.
Eastern is coming in off of a bye week last week, and even though a winning record is on their mind, the Panthers have to do a few things first to make that happen.
“Before we can even think about all that stuff is we’ve got to take care of our business individually, fundamentally and we’ve got to learn to be more discipline and play a good brand of clean football,” Dameron said.
What Dameron is referring to is the amount of penalties that Eastern has taken in the recent weeks that are “self-inflicted.”
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. Saturday at Eastern Kentucky.
Sean Hastings can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]