The Eastern football team’s 2019 season certainly did not go as planned. A 1-11 overall record, a last-place OVC finish and the last ranked offense in the OVC were definitely not things this team expected to have on its resume at season’s end.
But that is the reality for this team and that is what will be etched into Eastern’s history books for the year 2019.
As we looked back at the 2019 season, the sports staff of The Daily Eastern News tried to pick out the five moments from the 2019 season that will be the most memorable, good or bad, planned or unplanned.
1. Cushing gets his first win
Adam Cushing’s first season as head coach of the Panthers was far from storybook. Cushing promised at his introductory press conference that Eastern will win the OVC championship and a national championship title during his time in Charleston; and it is clear the program has a lot of work and a lot more winning to do before those promises are met. It was clear fairly early in the season that Cushing’s first year would not yield either of those results and after the team started the season 0-9, it looked as if his first win at Eastern may not come in 2019 either. But alas, on Nov. 9 against Tennessee State on the road, Cushing got his first win as Eastern’s head coach when his team beat the Tigers 49-38 in what would be the offense’s best showing of the season.
2. Brantley leaves the program
One of the more bizarre happenings of Eastern’s 2019 season was when starting quarterback Johnathan Brantley abruptly left the program after a week four loss to Indiana State. Brantley informed his coaches just days before the Panthers’ week five matchup against Tennessee Tech that he no longer wanted to play football for Eastern and just like that, he was gone. Little explanation was given as to what his motives were and the Panthers’ trucked forward with Harry Woodbery as the starting quarterback.
3. Panthers come up just inches short
Four weeks before the Panthers got their first win of the season against Tennesse State, the Panthers were literally within inches of sending a matchup with Murray State into overtime. Inches. Eastern was trailing Murray State 24-17 with just seconds to play in the game. Woodbery fired a pass to receiver Dwayne Cooks who got the ball just inches short of the goal line before being brought down as time expired.
4. Hill torches Skyhawks, then Redhawks
Eastern receiver Isaiah Hill, a transfer from South Dakota, was not cleared to play for the Panthers prior to week four when he made his debut against Tennessee Tech. It did not take long however for Hill and Woodbery to click as a duo, and particularly against Tennessee-Martin and Southeast Missouri, Hill lit up the field. Hill caught 15 passes for 157 yards and one touchdown on Oct. 19 against Tennessee-Martin in a game where he introduced himself as a danger to the rest of the OVC. Hill reaffirmed that introduction on Nov. 16 against Southeast Missouri when he caught 13 passes for 152 yards and one touchdown.
5. Eastern finds itself on wrong side of history
Eastern did put its name in its own record books one time this season, just not for the right reasons on Oct. 26 against Eastern Kentucky. In a 33-6 to the Colonels, Eastern’s offense put up just 89 yards of offense, the second-lowest total in school history. It was cold, it was rainy, it was windy and, on a day where the weather was as gloomy as can be, Eastern’s offense went into hibernation and mustered just 89 yards on a soaked O’Brien Field.
JJ Bullock can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]