Eastern ready for Arkansas atmosphere


File Photo

Eastern senior receiver Aaron Gooch runs from an Indiana State defender in a 22-20 Eastern win on the road last season. Gooch, along with Alexander Hollins, will be tasked with navigating Arkansas’ secondary this Saturday.

JJ Bullock, Sports Editor

Buried deep under months of excitement and anticipation, an actual football game will be played between the Eastern football team and Arkansas Saturday. 

All of the noise and attention that comes with playing an SEC school is now being tuned out by the Panthers, and the focus has turned to playing football. 

Eastern pumped artificial crowd noise and played Arkansas’ fight song through the speakers at O’Brien Field to prep for the atmosphere the team is going to face in Razorback Stadium. 

“We’re kind of built (for the noise) to be honest because offensively we do a ton of signals and we really don’t have a lot of verbage that we have to communicate, so it really works out best for us that it really doesn’t matter,” head coach Kim Dameron said.

Eastern is not expecting Arkansas to take it easy on them or underestimate them by any stretch. Dameron and the Panthers are fully prepared to get a taste of everything the Razorbacks have to offer on a football field. 

“I know they are going to be excited about the home opener and so we’re going to get a good football team,” Dameron said. “It’s not going to be a thing where they’re overlooking us or anything. They’re going to come to take care of business because they want to make a great impression early, and so we have to match that enthusiasm, match that intensity and we have to go play.”

Win or lose on Saturday, there is still a lot Eastern has to gain (outside of money) from going up against Arkansas. The Razorbacks will by far and away be the best team Eastern plays this season, so to say Eastern might learn something about themselves from the game is an understatement. 

“(The game) does a couple things. One, we get to see what an SEC football team looks like and know where we’re trying to get to as far as talent level and play ability and intensity and all that,” Dameron said. “I think that the other thing that it does, it gives our program a lot of exposure that we wouldn’t normally get.”

This is going to be the biggest game and biggest team a lot of Eastern’s players have ever faced. Needless to say, Eastern does have a lot of experience playing against SEC schools.

Tulane transfer quarterback Johnathan Brantley, however, does carry big game experience with him. During his time at Tulane he played in a game on the road against Oklahoma, an experience he will try and draw from this Saturday. 

“(The experience) helps a lot,” Brantley said. “In the American conference we had NFL talent all over, a lot of speed. Just division one athletes, premier athletes. So I am used to going against that, so that will help a lot.”

Brantley said the team right now is just locked in on preparation for the game, and he feels that preparation has given them confidence heading into the game. 

Like Dameron, Brantley recognizes the talent that will be across from him and the offense when Arkansas takes the field. The game will certainly be a big test for Eastern’s new offense and the two-quarterback system that will utilize both Brantley and Harry Woodbery.

“(We need to) make the routine plays and just trust the system,” Brantley said. “Don’t press, and as long as we execute and focus on the little things we will be fine.”

Eastern and Arkansas play at 3 p.m. on Saturday. The game will be broadcasted on ESPN’s SEC Network. 

JJ Bullock can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]