Panthers win in final seconds

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Panthers win in final seconds

Senior  Dennis Turner celebrates after catching a touchdown pass to put Eastern ahead late in the fourth quarter Thursday at Indiana State.  The touchdown pass was the third of the game for Turner.

Senior Dennis Turner celebrates after catching a touchdown pass to put Eastern ahead late in the fourth quarter Thursday at Indiana State. The touchdown pass was the third of the game for Turner.

Justin Brown

Senior Dennis Turner celebrates after catching a touchdown pass to put Eastern ahead late in the fourth quarter Thursday at Indiana State. The touchdown pass was the third of the game for Turner.

Justin Brown

Justin Brown

Senior Dennis Turner celebrates after catching a touchdown pass to put Eastern ahead late in the fourth quarter Thursday at Indiana State. The touchdown pass was the third of the game for Turner.

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

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It took 59 minutes and 57 seconds, but the Eastern offense finally started clicking and stole a win from Indiana State in the season opener 22-20.

The offense could not get anything rolling throughout the game, but senior quarterback Mitch Kimble and the rest of the offense buckled down in the final two minutes and finished it off with a 15-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Dennis Turner.

“I think we (needed some extra pressure to get going),” Kimble said. “It came down to the wire and we executed. We got the win, that’s all that matters.”

Kimble said the Panthers practice two-minute drills quite a bit in practice so they were ready for it.

Kimble threw for 204 yards, going 27-44 with one touchdown, coming as the game winner.

The Panthers took over at the 31-yard line after the defense forced Indiana State to attempt a 48-yard field goal. Jerry Nunez missed the kick and Eastern had 1:52 left on the clock to score.

Eastern trailed 20-16 heading into the drive.

The defense made huge stops throughout the game forcing Indiana State to kick field goals, keeping them out of the end zone.

While the offense was not putting the points on the board, besides one 8-yard rushing touchdown from junior Isaiah Johnson in the first quarter, the defense was helping it out with some scoring of its own.

In his first game redshirt freshman Mark Williams intercepted Isaac Harker’s pass and took it 73 yards for a touchdown. The extra point was missed and Eastern was left with a 13-7 lead.

Williams had some first-game jitters, he said, but those were gone on the second drive when he picked of Harker for the score.

“I got those (jitters) out and then I relied on my teammates and they relied on me and they trusted me and I trusted them and it just came down and I made the play,” he said.

Williams is going to be relied on for the Panthers defense this season and is ready to keep going.

“Now that I did that, (we all) did good, I feel like I’m more confident in my skill level and my play at this level, the college level, so I’m more confident like that,” Williams said.

Without the Eastern defense, Indiana State may have ran away with the game. Coach Kim Dameron said they kept them in the game.

“They not only kept us in the game, they scored a touchdown,” he said. “Then late in the game, what kept (Indiana State) from going further ahead. I was very pleased with the defensive effort, obviously we didn’t do everything perfect, but they played their hind ends off.”

The defense kept the Sycamores out of the end zone from the 10:01 mark in the first quarter until they grabbed the lead at the 4:54 mark of the fourth quarter.

Eastern actually had to give the ball back to the Sycamores, before starting its game-winning drive.

This is Eastern’s first win in the season opener in three years.

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