Football seniors win last home game of the season

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Football seniors win last home game of the season

Aaron Gooch sheds off an Eastern Kentucky tackler in the Panthers 23-20 overtime win at O’Brien Field. Gooch finished the game with 53 yards on five receptions.

Aaron Gooch sheds off an Eastern Kentucky tackler in the Panthers 23-20 overtime win at O’Brien Field. Gooch finished the game with 53 yards on five receptions.

Bryan Bund | The Daily Eastern News

Aaron Gooch sheds off an Eastern Kentucky tackler in the Panthers 23-20 overtime win at O’Brien Field. Gooch finished the game with 53 yards on five receptions.

Bryan Bund | The Daily Eastern News

Bryan Bund | The Daily Eastern News

Aaron Gooch sheds off an Eastern Kentucky tackler in the Panthers 23-20 overtime win at O’Brien Field. Gooch finished the game with 53 yards on five receptions.

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

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Redshirt senior linebacker Nick Horne said for as long as he can remember, senior Bradley Dewberry has been playing behind him as safety.

Before every play the two tell each other that it is time to make a big play. And in overtime against Eastern Kentucky with a 3-point lead on senior day, it was time to make a huge play.

Senior Dewberry’s final play of his career on O’Brien Field resulted in an interception on the Colonels’ first play in overtime sealing the 23-20 win for the Eastern football team.

Horne and Dewberry both said the win means everything to them and the rest of the Eastern seniors.

Dewberry was part of coach Kim Dameron’s first class when he took over the coaching job in 2014.

“That’s a special thing for me that these guys were able to finish off with a win here at home in their last regular season home game,” Dameron said. “They’ve meant everything to this program, they’ve been leaders since they were freshman. We’ve got a lot of seniors that have put in a lot of time and effort here, in (the weight room) and (on the field). I couldn’t be more proud of them and their parents.”

Eastern’s 3-point win was its sixth win of the season and sixth win that came by three or less points making it “just another day in Panther football, baby,” as Dameron said.

A game that every Panther wanted to win so badly for the seniors almost slipped through the cracks when Eastern Kentucky scored a touchdown with 37 seconds left.

Dameron said that he wanted Eastern’s defense to let the Colonels score with 1:28 left in the game, but not everyone got the message and made a tackle just short of the goal line.

Which meant Eastern’s struggling offense had just 32 seconds to make something happen. Four plays later, Eastern made something happen.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Scotty Gilkey Jr. tossed a 26-yard pass to junior wide receiver Alexander Hollins, who had two guys draped over him with a third coming in.

Hollins leaped and caught it in the three-man coverage then falling in the end zone—ball in hand.

We’re thankful that we had one more second, one more play, we had guys stand up and make plays,” Dameron said.

The Panthers run the same three plays at the end of practice every week, preparing for situations like Saturday’s.

“Those guys always wonder why we work on those last three plays of the game and now they know,” Dameron said. “We work on it every week, we rep these same plays every week. The same last three plays to get the ball down and throw it in the end zone. It’s the first time that we’ve had to do it with that little time left, but we did it and the last one went in the end zone.”

The Panthers scored on their first drive of the game on three plays, making it the only time Eastern pushed the ball toward the end zone besides the last play of regulation.

Horne talked about big plays: Dewberry’s interception, Hollins’ touchdown and freshman kicker Matt Severino’s game-tying extra point.

The touchdown was great, but the freshman still needed to hit the extra point to send the game to overtime.

A silent O’Brien Field awaited the kick to go through the uprights. All that could be heard was an exuberant Eastern coach in the box cheer him on with a “let’s go Severino,” excited about the previous play or almost knowing he was going to make the kick.

Eventually, fans erupted.

Eastern’s offensive magic was lost in overtime. Three plays leaving Severino with his longest field goal try of the season and he connected with ease from 45 yards.

“We had a couple of penalties that killed us, but thanks to Matt Severino he went out there and kicked 100 percent, unbelievable and I mean clutch kicks,” Dameron said.

Eastern found a way to pull out the emotional win

That’s the way this game is,” Dameron said. “I just got to say that these kids never give up. That’s why we’ve won so many close football game.”

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