Football team prepared for McNeese State despite injuries


Rob Le Cates

Junior Kicker, Stone Galloway, kicks the ball during football practice Wednesday afternoon at O’Brien Field.

Kate Stevens, Assistant Sports Editor

The Eastern football team is heading down to Lake Charles, La., Saturday to take on the McNeese State Cowboys for the first time in nearly thirty years.

After the loss to Tennessee Tech last weekend, EIU currently has a 2-6 (1-2 OVC) record. McNeese has an overall record of 1-7 (0-4 Southland Conference) and also has a new head coach in Gary Goff.

Head coach Chris Wilkerson said while the team has been dealing with several injuries, the guys behind them have been stepping up and have been preparing as they prepare for the game Saturday night.

“The guys that have their numbers been called, they have done a phenomenal job and we know they’re going to give maximum effort,” said Wilkerson. “We’re going to prepare and get ready to go down there.”

Kicker Stone Galloway said that the team has a good mentality when it comes to dealing with the number of injuries that they’ve had on the team.

“The game of football is extremely physical,” Galloway said. “Injuries are a huge thing and so just being able to have the mentality all the way down the depth chart of ‘third person be ready when your number is called,’”

Wilkerson said a few that were injured will be making a return this weekend, such as quarterback Dom Shoffner.

The team struggled after quarterback Jonah O’Brien left last Saturdays game at the half due to sustaining an injury. They were unable to score after putting up a 17-3 lead against Tennessee Tech going into the half.

The injuries have affected the play of the team, but linebacker Colin Bohanek said they are putting in work every day and staying motivated.

“We’re playing for our pride right now,” Bohanek said. “Just going out there and really playing the game we love, just motivating guys every day, saying ‘hey, we came here to play the game we love’ and just keep doing that every day, day in and day out.”

Amid the struggles with injuries, EIU has had things happen in their favor.

Galloway is currently ranked number one in the NCAA and the Ohio Valley Conference because of his field goal percentage of 100%. He leads the team in points with 52 points and is one of two kickers in the FCS that has a perfect kicking record this season.

He currently has 14 straight field goals, the longest streak in the OVC in the last 20 seasons and has made all 10 point after attempts this season. Galloway said he’s happy with his success this season because it has helped his team.

The defense has had success this season with 17 total turnovers and 15 sacks. Bohanek leads the defense with 62 tackles and 6.5 sacks. He recorded 12 of those tackles in the game against Tennessee Tech.

Wilkerson said he is happy with the continued effort, energy, grit, determination, and resiliency as they’ve picked themselves up each week and get right back to work with the ups and downs of the season and said that the game with McNeese will be a game of who wants to show up and get things done.

He also said that the process of becoming a great team and getting win after win is a hard thing to accomplish.

“You’ve got to cherish those times when you are successful, but not apologize for any wins,” Wilkerson said. “It’s a hard thing to do and it is part of the process. You just can’t miss any of the steps along the way.”

Wilkerson said overall he is ready and excited to get down to Louisiana and play. The last time he faced McNeese State was when he was a linebacker for EIU in their meeting in 1993 where McNeese defeated EIU 49-7.

Saturday’s game has a 7 p.m. kickoff and will be streamed on ESPN+.

Kate Stevens can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]