Shoffner leads football team to victory


Ashanti Thomas

Justin Thomas, a senior wide receiver, leaps over Franky West, a sophomore defensive back, to avoid the tackle. The Panthers lost to the Redbirds 7-35 Saturday night at Illinois State University.

Autumn Schulz, Sports Editor

Dom Shoffner answered the call. 

When the Eastern football team needed a change in its offense Saturday night against Murray State, senior UNC Charlotte transfer quarterback Dom Shoffner took over without hesitation. 

The race for the starting quarterback position in preseason was certainly a fight. Shoffner certainly proved why he deserved to be in the final three. His presence was known as soon as he took the field at Roy Stewart Stadium. 

Shoffner’s ability to run the ball and connect with his wide receivers when it was crucial led the Panthers to a 35-21 win over the Racers, the first win of the season and the first win of the Wilkerson Era. 

24 of those points came in the first half alone. 

Shoffner said that he has been treating everyday as if he is going to be slated in the starting position. 

“I live by the motto just stay ready, so you don’t have to get ready, and you know, I have been preparing like I’m going to be the starter since day one I stepped on this campus,” Shoffner said. “I’m just loving the bond, I’ve engaged with all the guys and I’m just so excited that we caught our first win for the season.” 

Wilkerson said the decision to put Shoffner in as quarterback was something that was decided before the game, not in the moment. 

“To be honest with you, this is something that we talked about last week going into the game at ISU and he certainly had his chance to perform against ISU and as a staff, we said he deserved an opportunity to have a series, and so we decided before the game that it would be the second series,” Wilkerson said. “He took the offense right down the field and into the end zone. So, we said’ hey we gotta let go again’ and he took him right down the field and went into the end zone again. So, we obviously finished the game with Dom tonight and those guys have been super supportive of each other and I’m looking forward to watching them continue to approve.” 

The Panthers had a remarkable rushing game with 339 yards as compared to last season’s high of 130 yards against Dayton. The Racers had 83 total rushing yards with running back Jawaun Northington leading the way with 67. 

The rushing game for the Panthers was led by sophomore running back Kendi Young, who had 8 carries for 160 yards. Shoffner was second on the team, rushing for 89 yards on 17 carries. 

Young had suffered an injury earlier in preseason camp that had kept him from playing the first three games. He said that it was more than ideal to be a part of such a high rushing game for the Panthers. 

“It’s incredible, especially when we got our first dub and to get the rushing yards, the majority of the yards were rushing, that’s the best thing ever for a running back,” Young said.  

I truly was a time for celebration as there were two firsts in the game for the Panthers. Firstly, the Panthers had not scored a rushing touchdown yet this season until about six minutes to go in the first quarter. 

The Panthers had marched their way into Racer territory and had made their way to the one-yard line. Shoffner faked the hand off to Benefield, leaving room for him to rush right up the middle for a touchdown, tying the game 7-7. 

Another rushing touchdown came in the second quarter as the Panthers were capitalizing on an interception caught by linebacker Jordan Vincent. The Panthers were at the Racers’ 36-yard line before Young was able to rush up the middle of the field for a 36-yard touchdown, putting the Panthers up 24-14 at halftime. 

It was also the first win for Wilkerson as head coach. Wilkerson said that the team remained calmer under pressure than it had been and as a result, the score spoke for itself. 

“You know everything that we said from the beginning was that our focus was trying to improve our standing in the Ohio Valley Conference. So, to come on the road, and you know, take the next step was important tonight and we did that,” Wilkerson said. “We talked about how we’ve already played with a little bit of physical presence, and we played with some toughness and some energy and enthusiasm but that we needed to remain poised a little more and that we needed to execute a little bit better, and we did that tonight and so I’m really happy for the players and coaches and for all of those that have been supporting us.” 

Shoffner had no trouble connecting with his wide receivers as he had five completions on 14 attempts with one touchdown pass. Justin Thomas led the receivers with 46 yards on 3 catches.  

Late in the first quarter, Cooper Willman had a 55-yard punt return to the Racers 33-yard line. The Panthers continued to march their way to the end zone as Shoffner connected with wide receiver Nile Hill on a 16-yard pass. 

 The Panthers advanced to the two-yard line and Shoffner would then go on to hit wide receiver Justin Thomas on a two-yard touchdown pass. 

Shoffner said that it is the extra work with the wide receivers that made his performance go smoother. 

“The timing and the connection is definitely a very important piece. I try to stay after practice and just throw with all the guys. I get extra snaps in both centers, one and two, so they chemistry is still there. Just stay ready so you don’t have to get ready.” 

The Panthers’ defense was also having a day sophomore linebacker Colin Bohanek led the team with ten tackles. Jordan Vincent had the lone interception for the Panthers while also having eight tackles. Tim Varga added seven, including two solo tackles. 

Stone Galloway continues to be successful this season as he has not missed a field goal for the Panthers. Galloway had two field goals against the Racers, one of them came after the final touchdown of the game for the Panthers in the fourth quarter, sealing the 35-21 win. 

The Panthers will have a bye-week this week and will be back in action at O’Brien Field against Northwestern State on Oct. 8 at 2 p.m. 

 Autumn Schulz can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]