Eastern football team searches for complete game Saturday

Maher Kawash, Football Reporter

The Eastern football team controls its own destiny in its hunt for a playoff berth, but its path to a 4-1 record in the Ohio Valley Conference has not come easy.

As the Panthers gear up for a road affair against Tennessee-Martin, they search for a complete game against the Skyhawks.

Eastern is fresh off a solid game, despite it ending in a loss, as the Panthers held third ranked Jacksonville State down for three quarters.

But three quarters of strong play is not going to get the Panthers into the postseason.

To this point, it is clear Eastern has played well since its 1-2 start to the season as the team has won four of its last five games.

But in those wins Eastern has not played a complete game.

It is no easy task at any level of college football to compete the way you want for four straight quarters, and the Panthers have come close but are just not there yet.

Saturday offers a good time to start for Eastern though as the team may have to win all three of its remaining games for a shot at the postseason.

Other than last week’s matchup against the elite Gamecocks, the Panthers have played their best when it matters most.

They close out teams in the final moments and have escaped by three points or less in all four OVC wins.

In those wins there has been some mixed results on how Eastern goes about winning its games, but as many teams would, the Panthers do best when out to an early lead.

That has not been an easy task for an offense that relies heavily on the run and has had a revolving door at quarterback due to injury.

But nonetheless, Eastern has still found its way to 4-1 in the OVC by going into the half with a lead in all but one of those wins.

The one time Eastern did not lead at the half was against Tennessee Tech, and that was in credit to a superb defensive effort in the second half from the Panthers as they limited the Golden Eagles to just nine points.

Heading into Saturday, the Panthers are tied for second in the OVC with another 5-3 team in Austin Peay.

If they want to surpass the Governors in the standings, they will need some solidarity on offense as Jacksonville State was able to stunt the Panthers a week ago.

That game against the Gamecocks offered a first half in which Eastern appeared to be worthy of its top spot in the standings, but a lackluster offense led to the defense needing to do too much against an elite opponent.

There is not much margin for error in games like those, and heading into the final three weeks of the regular season there will not be much room for any error as Eastern tries to salvage a postseason spot.

Eastern coach Kim Dameron did say he has been in this position before though with three weeks left on the season two years ago, and in that case his team made the postseason.

Maher Kawash can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]