Eastern football team returns home to take on Northwestern State


Rob Le Cates

Sophomore Linebacker Elijawah Tolbert (left) and Sophomore Defensive Lineman Colby Smith (right) run out a drill during football practice Wednesday afternoon at O’Brien Field.

Autumn Schulz, Sports Editor

The bye week has come to an end for the Eastern football team as it returns to O’Brien Field Saturday at 2 p.m. to take on Northwestern State for the first time since 1993. 

The Panthers are coming off their first win of the season over Murray State, improving to 1-3 overall and 1-0 in the OVC. The Panthers’ win over the Racers proved that the offense has a lot to offer and will be an issue for the Demons come Saturday. 

The Panthers rushed for a season-high of 339 yards. The rushing game was led by sophomore running back Kendi Young, who rushed for 160 yards on eight carries. 

Head coach Chris Wilkerson said that keeping the ball on the ground will work once again for the Panthers and that it will be interesting to see how the Demons respond. 

“Well, you know, what we do offensively is we want to take what they give us,” Wilkerson said. “So, you know, if we have six blockers and they have six defenders well then yeah, we’d like to get a head on a hat and try to run the football but if we have six blockers and they want to put seven in there, well, we’ve got to be able to throw the football. We want to be able to mix it and take what they give us. It’ll be interesting to see how they decide to defend us.” 

Another highlight for the Panthers’ offense was senior transfer backup quarterback Dom Shoffner. Shoffner entered the game against the Racers in the first quarter and led the Panthers to their first win after rushing for 89 yards and throwing for 74 yards and a touchdown. 

Shoffner said that being a part of the first win was something he expects to continue doing. 

“Oh, it feels really amazing, you know, just getting that first win. Ever since from there, we’re just going to take it week by week and prep it for each opponent,” Shoffner said. “I expect to win, I’m gonna win.” 

Kicker Stone Galloway has not missed a field goal this season as he is 6-for-6 on field goal attempts and 9-for-9 on extra points, scoring 27 points for the season. Galloway ranks 13th in the FCS in field goals and is tied for first in field goal percentage.

The Panthers’ defense also continues to improve each game as they forced five turnovers against the Racers. Linebacker Elijawah Tolbert was named the Ohio Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Week as he had two interceptions and three pass break-ups, in addition to six tackles. 

Tolbert is fifth in the FCS this season with three interceptions, and he is second on the team with 31 tackles for the season. 

The Demons are coming into Saturday’s game with a 2-3 overall record and a 2-0 record in the Southland Conference. 

Two Demon quarterbacks have seen playing time this season, Zachary Clement and Miles Fallin. Clement has passed for 907 yards and Fallin has passed for 460, combining for nine touchdowns. 

Their top two receivers are Javon Antonio and Zach Patterson, who both have 25 or more catches. Defensively, the Demons have five or more players with 20 or more tackles. Race Moser and Jared Pedraza both have 36 for the season while Jacob Washington is third on the team with 30. 

Saturday’s home game is the first of three for the Panthers this month as they will be at O’Brien Field next Saturday to take on Lindenwood and then once again on Oct. 29 to take on Tennessee Tech.  

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