Eastern football team set for final home game

JJ Bullock, Sports Editor

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For its final home game of the season the Eastern football team will be hosting an Austin Peay team that, much like itself, is sitting in a spot with two games to play this season that it did not expect to be in, nor would it like to be in. 

Prior to this season, Austin Peay was selected to finish second in the conference behind Jacksonville State in the standings, Eastern likewise was selected to finish fourth. Instead, as mid-November nears, both teams sit with identical 2-4 conference records and are in 6th and 7th places in the conference. 

Both teams’ seasons have been mired and shrouded in unreached potential and expectations, but Saturday Austin Peay and Eastern will meet in a clash of two teams both trying to salvage what they can from seasons that are all but lost. 

Both teams are coming off losses to Eastern Kentucky. Austin Peay lost to the Colonels this past weekend 17-13 and Eastern fell to Eastern Kentucky on Oct. 27 31-23 before heading into a bye week. 

Austin Peay runs the ball a lot like Eastern Kentucky does, but in a much different way. The Governors spread the ball around more and do not run quite the same pro-style run scheme that Eastern Kentucky did.

Austin Peay has multiple weapons that can run the ball efficiently, which makes them especially tough to defend. Running back Kentel Williams is second in the Ohio Valley Conference with 684 yards rushing this season; he also has six touchdowns this season. Quarterback Jeremiah Oatsvall adds a truly scary dynamic to the run game. He has 435 yards rushing this season, and he also has six touchdowns. 

“They try to really over-populate an area on the perimeter as quickly as they can with motions and stuff like that,” head coach Kim Dameron said. “So with the quarterback you have to defend all 11 guys, so it’s a totally different approach to stopping the run and so our work is cut out for us as far as being able to do that on a regular basis.”

Defending the run has been a difficulty for the Panthers this season; Eastern is second-worst in the conference with 2030 yards given up on the ground. Eastern gave up 216 yards to Eastern Kentucky, and Austin Peay should prove to be an equal or even better adversary as the Governors lead the OVC with 2170 total rushing yards this season. 

Needless to say, the Eastern defense will be tested by Austin Peay all game long, especially on the ground, but likewise, the Austin Peay defense can change a game as well.

The Governors only allow 388 yards per game, the third best figure in the OVC. Up front for Austin Peay, lineman Jaison Williams and Nate Howard have combined for 19.5 tackles for loss this season, the second most of any OVC duo this season. 

“When you look at them the first thing that pops out is that they are very quick and athletic upfront,” Dameron said. “They have got a couple of transfers and of course Jaison Williams is a really good player, but they are really good upfront.”

Austin Peay and Eastern play at 1 p.m. Saturday at O’Brien Field.

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