The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

EIU looks forward to possible playoff contention game

Sia Deykoontz
Eastern’s football team practice on the O’Brien field, a few days away before their last game of the season.

With a 30-17 win over the Tennessee State Tigers last Saturday, the Panthers look to end their season with a fourth straight win when they face Robert Morris University at Joe Walton Stadium on Saturday at 11 a.m.

This game is crucial for the Panthers if they want a shot at playoff contention. Eastern is in third place in the Big South-Ohio Valley Conference while Gardner Webb University is in second place.

University of Tennessee-Martin is in first place and are the conference champs this season.

If Eastern wins their game on Saturday and Gardner Webb loses their game against Charleston Southern, the chances of Eastern obtaining a playoff spot are much higher.

Redshirt sophomore linebacker Phoenix Porter thinks the win over TSU was the team’s most complete performance so far.

“I feel like that created some good momentum going into this last game, and hopefully, we’re able to punch our ticket into playoffs,” Porter said.

Redshirt junior quarterback Pierce Holley feels good after the TSU win, but he also knows there is still work to improve one when the team faces the Robert Morris Colonials.

Quarterback Pierce Holley (3) gets interviewed before football practice. (Sia Deykoontz )

“We’re using the win to prepare again for this week,” Holley said. “Just keep on improving and still trying to put together a full game. We’re making sure we got this game plan down.”

Panthers’ Head Coach Chris Wilkerson was also asked if there were any changes to his team’s approach for this Saturday’s game.

“We want to continue to be who we are and that’s, you know, control what we can,” Wilkerson said. “That’s our attitude, our approach and our response every day. You know certainly we have improved from last year to this year, but we have one more opportunity, and we want to make sure we make the most of that.”

Wilkerson also touched on what factors will be critical for success in this matchup.

“When you get down towards the end of the season really it has a lot to do with who prepares and who still wants to play,” Wilkerson said. “And, you know we have we have our hands full. It’s [Robert Morris’] senior day so I expect that they will be very prepared, and we’ll play a very spirited game and I know that we will be prepared and hopefully we’ll go and execute and that’s really what it comes down to. Again, for us, it’s still Eastern Illinois playing against Eastern Illinois and trying to put that perfect performance together where we play offense and defense and special teams as good as we can for four straight quarters.”

Focus and intensity have been an aspect that multiple players have seen improve throughout practices.

Porter feels that coming off the bye week, the three straight wins have motivated the Panthers to continuously improve.

“I feel like coming off the bye week, we’ve been a lot more fresh and able to come out here and put our best foot forward,” Porter said.

Junior defensive back Nick Coates has seen the team improve on their focus level.

“We have intentional focus and we’re learning how to not drift and think about what’s after practice or what the next game is; all these circumstances that are easy to think about,” Coates said. “I feel like we’re doing a really good job at focusing now.”

Redshirt junior offensive lineman Sebastian Pares noted the team has been more locked in than ever.

Offensive lineman Sebastian Pares (71) gets interviewed before football practice. (Sia Deykoontz )

“Especially in the last two practices, everyone is locked in,” Pares said. “Everybody is focused. We’re still joking around and such, but you can tell that everyone is paying attention to detail, and we’re just ready to get another win.”

Graduate wide receiver Justin Thomas has seen a change in intensity within the team.

“After the two unfortunate loses, our back’s against the wall basically for the whole season, and we’ve done everything we can to not let that ruin our season,” Thomas said.

As this possible playoff-contention game approaches, Holley feels that there isn’t any added pressure to the team.

“We’ve been saying that we’ve been playing playoff games for the last three weeks because we knew if we didn’t win any of the past three, we weren’t gonna make the playoffs,” Holley said. “It’s kind of something we’ve been doing and something we’ve gotten used to.”

Zaria Flippin can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].

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About the Contributors
Zaria Flippin
Zaria Flippin, Sports Editor
Zaria Flippin is a junior sports media relations major. This is her first year at The News.
Duane Carter
Duane Carter, Sports Reporter
Duane Carter is a junior sports media relations major. This is his first year at The News.

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