Football team prepared to take on ranked SEMO in last home game


Monique Peterson

Markenzy Pierre (1), a redshirt senior runningback, runs drills during football practice at O’Brien Field Wednesday afternoon.

Kate Stevens, Assistant Sports Editor

The Eastern football team (2-7) is prepared to take on the #20 ranked Southeast Missouri football team (7-2) Saturday afternoon at O’Brien for the last home game of the season. 

Coach Chris Wilkerson said that some of the guys they have missed from injury will be back and they are excited for the opportunity to play ranked SEMO. 

“Certainly, hosting a top 20 team is a great opportunity,” Wilkerson said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how our guys show up and compete.” 

SEMO is currently in the number one spot in the Ohio Valley Conference as well. 

Tight end Jay Vallie said he is not looking at the opponent any differently even if they are ranked. 

 “The most important opponent is the one that we play next Saturday,” Vallie said. “These guys just happen to be it. I’m not really going about it any different than any other week.”  

 Running back Markenzy Pierre said the team is ready to face the Redhawks and he trusts in the coaches’ plans for the game.  

 “We’re looking forward going into this game,” Pierre said. “Coach has a great game plan and we’re real confident going into this one.” 

 Eastern is currently in fifth in the OVC as they are 1-2 in conference having beaten Murray State in September. SEMO is 3-0 in conference as they have defeated Tennessee Tech, Tennessee State, and Lindenwood. 

Wilkerson, his staff, and players go into the game knowing that SEMO is a good opponent and want to be at their best.

 “They have a very high-powered offense, some really good receivers,” Vallie said. “Good, skilled guys. I know they’ve always been really solid defensively. So, we just know that we got to be on our game when we go out there.” 

 Pierre also said they’re going up against some of the most skilled players in the OVC. 

 “They have a lot of great athletes across the board and a lot of potential NFL prospects,” Pierre said. “So, it’s gonna be a great opportunity to play against some really good guys.” 

 The team struggled defensively in last week’s contest at McNeese State, but quarterback Dom Shoffner had some strong statistics to show for the game and Wilkerson said he’s confident in Shoffner’s abilities and is looking forward to seeing him compete Saturday. 

 “He has done a phenomenal job for us,” Wilkerson said. “He’s continued to get better every single week. He had a very productive first Division I collegiate start. I’m looking forward to watching him continue to improve.” 

 Shoffner put up 187 passing yards and two touchdowns last Saturday. He also led in rushing with 94 yards.  

 “He’s such a great leader,” Wilkerson said. “He’s got a great grasp of the offense. He distributed the ball very well on Saturday.”  

 Wilkerson said the ultimate struggle Saturday was missing tackles on defense and not converting well on third and fourth downs. They also went one for three in red zone scoring chances and had a field goal blocked. They also dealt with injuries and sickness as kicker Stone Galloway was unable to make the trip down.   

 Wilkerson is confident in his team going into this last home game and said he wants the best result as team has worked hard this year and they all want to end on a good note for the seniors. 

 “It’s an amazing opportunity for us to do something that certainly nobody, I think right now, thinks that were capable of doing,” Wilkerson said. 

 He said he wants the seniors to be celebrated for all of the work they have put in in their years at Eastern through all the obstacles that they have had to endure. 

 “It’s about celebrating those guys’ commitment to our program for four and five, and sometimes six years,” Wilkerson said. “Those guys I have a tremendous amount of respect for. They have been extremely resilient. That’s really what senior days are about. It’s about celebrating those guys that have stayed committed to the process and the program their entire career or since their arrival into our program.” 

 Vallie, who has been at EIU for the last year and a half, said he is grateful for the opportunities he has been given in football and aspires to play football past college. 

 “It’s gone by super fast,” Vallie said. “I’m really grateful for every opportunity that I’ve been given since I’ve been here and just want to make the most of it. I have aspirations of playing football past college, so it doesn’t feel like this is the end for me just yet.” 

 Pierre, who has been at EIU the last two seasons, said he’s excited to play one last time at O’Brien. 

 “It’s gonna be exciting,” Pierre said. “I think all the guys are bought in and understand the impact that this game has for the seniors like me, so everyone’s locked in and ready to go for this one.”  

 The seniors that they will be recognizing are defensive lineman Ameer Agel, defensive back Elijah Benoit, safety Bryce Dewberry, defensive lineman Grant Edwards, wide receiver Isaiah Hill, defensive lineman Cameron Leach, offensive lineman Michael McNicholas, running back Markenzy Pierre, and tight end Jay Vallie. 

The Panthers and the Redhawks will kick off at 2 p.m. at O’Brien Stadium on Saturday.