Panthers, Huskies square off in DeKalb

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Panthers, Huskies square off in DeKalb

Junior running back Isaiah Johnson runs in for a touchdown in the Panthers’ season-opening win at Indiana State Aug. 31. Eastern plays at Northern Saturday.

Junior running back Isaiah Johnson runs in for a touchdown in the Panthers’ season-opening win at Indiana State Aug. 31. Eastern plays at Northern Saturday.

Justin Brown

Junior running back Isaiah Johnson runs in for a touchdown in the Panthers’ season-opening win at Indiana State Aug. 31. Eastern plays at Northern Saturday.

Justin Brown

Justin Brown

Junior running back Isaiah Johnson runs in for a touchdown in the Panthers’ season-opening win at Indiana State Aug. 31. Eastern plays at Northern Saturday.

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

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It will have already been nine days since the Panthers’ final-second win against Indiana State when the Eastern football team takes the field against Northern Saturday in DeKalb.

Eastern made simple mistakes that ended its drives last week, mistakes that were not made on the game winning drive.

The Panthers did not turn the ball over but put themselves in a hole with dropped passes and not making the best reads to keep moving up field.

A few key drops came from senior receiver Dennis Turner, who made up for his by hauling in the game-winning touchdown.

“That was uncharacteristic of me,” Turner said. “(Against Northern) I don’t plan on dropping as many. I plan to do a lot more catching this week.”

“The things that stopped those drives, weren’t because we were trying to be conservative,” coach Kim Dameron said. “We were throwing the football, we just dropped it.”

Dameron was, however, impressed with the showing that junior running back Isaiah Johnson put on.

He rushed for 65 yards ran for one touchdown, where he broke it off to the left and scurried his way into the end zone.

Johnson is a big running back. According to gobigrecruiting.com, the average height for an FCS running back is 5 feet 10 inches tall to 5 feet 11 inches tall and 175-195 pounds. Johnson is 6 feet 1 inch and 215 pounds.

“I thought Isaiah did a great job protecting the ball night long,” Dameron said. “He runs hard and he’s twisting and turning and doing all that, but he did a really good job protecting the football.”

The only ball that hit the ground for the Panthers (that could have been a turnover), was when redshirt senior quarterback Mitch Kimble’s arm was hit. Eastern recovered.

Snagging a win in the season opener puts the Panthers in a better spot going into week two, but the team knows that a win in game one does not guarantee a win in game two.

“The biggest step up is from game one to game two, and you’ll see it this week, that’s what coach tell us,” Turner said.

Drops are something that can be fixed. Kimble had open receivers, the connections just were not there, but putting together drives like the one the Panthers had in the final two minutes, they will be fine.

The running game is new and the receiving core is mostly new as Kimble’s main 2016 target, Devin Church, graduated. After one week Dameron can see what the Panthers have to do to win.

“We just have to continue to preach (protecting the ball), and if we don’t turn the ball over, it gives us a chance to win the football game,” Dameron said. “And if we couple that with explosive plays offensively, we can win bigger.”

It also comes down to running the offensive more efficiently, Dameron said.

Northern runs the ball well and puts together an option-like offense. And for Eastern, that is what they practice and base their defense around, because it is similar to the Eastern offense. Running jet sweeps and motions is what Eastern and Northern have in common.

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