Eastern wins OVC opener over SEMO


Bryan Bund

Alexander Hollins, 15, jumps up for the football for a touchdown against Southeast Missouri. The Panthers won their OVC opener 19-16 Saturday night at O’Brien Field.

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

The Eastern football team’s offense had been absent the past two games, but got back on the right track and opened Ohio Valley Conference play with a 19-16 win over Southeast Missouri.

It was a close game all the way through that ended on senior safety intercepting Jesse Hosket’s pass in the end zone with less than 23 seconds left.

With redshirt senior quarterback Mitch Kimble out with an injury, it was redshirt freshman Scotty Gilkey Jr.’s time to start as quarterback for Eastern. Kimble had his arm in a sling on the sideline.

Gilkey Jr. had seen limited action in the past two games, but did not waste his first chance to start in college and helped lead Eastern to a conference win.

On his first drive of the game, Gilkey Jr. marched the Panthers 87 yards on 17 plays for a touchdown. Eastern converted on five third-down attempts on the drive as well.

Gilkey Jr. said he though the opening touchdown brought the Panthers a lot of confidence.

“I didn’t really have any butterflies (in my first start),” Gilkey Jr. said. “I feel like coach has prepared me pretty well for this week, so I didn’t have any butterflies. I was really ready and I knew it was big to get that jump first, that score first like coach said, drawing blood first, that means something.”

It was the first time Eastern scored first this season.

The Panthers utilized Gilkey Jr. in running the ball more than passing, but the redshirt freshman had no problem throwing it deep, and accurate at that.

Gilkey Jr. connected with junior wide receiver Alexander Hollins for a 32-yard touchdown and a 38-yard touchdown. Gilkey Jr. also had an 83-yard touchdown get called back because of an illegal man down field.

Eastern put together some trickery with a double reverse flea flicker. Gilkey Jr. threw the deep ball to tight end James Sheehan, who caught it at midfield and ran the rest of the way just to get called back.

Coach Kim Dameron was happy with the way Gilkey Jr. played in his first start.

“I thought he did a heck of a job throwing the football (Saturday),” Dameron. “For him to come out and be 9-of-20, and throw for 142 (yards), that’s efficient. And obviously a couple of those could have been completed. We weren’t planning on asking him to go out there and throw it 40 times.”

Gilkey Jr. rushed for 98 yards.

He said he does not think of himself as a “run-first quarterback,” but realized that is what the Panthers need right now. His ability to run the ball opens up the rest of the offense for Eastern.

“Now that defenses see us running it, now we’re able to sling the ball around a little bit more,” Gilkey Jr. said. “I think it will open people’s eyes a little bit more. Our offense is definitely becoming a different kind of threat.”

He gave the credit to the coaches, Kimble, and the offensive line for having him ready for the game.

Eastern was the matter of inches of either losing that game or potentially having it tied. Dewberry’s interception gave the Panthers the ball back just needed one knee for the win.

If he batted it down and did not catch it, at the very least it gave Southeast Missouri a chance to kick a game-tying field goal.

“He has great ball skills,” Dameron said. “He’s savvy and when there’s somebody in the middle of the field, that’s the guy we want to be in the middle of the field.”

Dameron said Dewberry “played it like you would see it played on Sunday.”

The defense let up 355 yards on offense, but only allowed one offensive touchdown.

Dewberry said the reason for that was just forgetting the bad plays that happened.

“The offense helped us a lot putting us in good positions so I would say it was more like they do their job, we do our job and relying on each other to move the ball and get the ball back,” he said.

Eastern is 1-0 to start conference.

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