EIU Panthers

Sunday, September 20, 2009

OVC Turnpike & BBQ

Saturday marked the start of what Eastern Illinois radio announcer Mike Bradd terms the first of many season long trips on the OVC Turnpike.

For people not associated with where EIU is exactly located, the OVC Turnpike is the stretch of road going from Exit 190 on Interstate 57 (Charleston/Mattoon exit) until you hit Paducah, Kentucky off of Interstate 24.

From that 195 mile stretch of road Eastern Illinois fans, student-athletes, coaches and anyone else who fits the official and non-official traveling party can access seven of the current OVC member schools for competition. In a few short years an eighth will be added to that list as you will hit a 30-mile stretch of the turnpike from Mattoon to Effingham on your way to SIU Edwardsville. While not a long stretch it still lands on the turnpike - much like people who live off Exit 8A on the Jersey Turnpike count themselves on that piece of road even though they are miles from New York City.

The two schools you don't hit on the turnpike are Eastern Kentucky and Morehead State, but that part of Kentucky can be saved for a future posting.

What you learn on the turnpike is what stops are along the way and if you ride with Charleston Times Courier Sports Editor Brian Nielsen long enough, you can even find out what gas stations have the best stop-and-go food along the route.

While the drive may be long, you start to decipher the trip by land marks along the way -- The Big Cross in Effingham and the Superman billboard in Metropolis. You also learn that the OVC turnpike features some of the best BBQ joints.

On the way to Southeast Missouri you hit the world famous 17th Street BBQ which has won several world championship awards for its great food. (Located on the Carbondale/Marion exit - for those making the trip).

In Clarksville we found a spot called Golden Rule BBQ last year which was not half bad. A personal favorite is located on Broadway in downtown Nashville - Jack's BBQ. You can't miss the marquee with flying pigs and its located just a few doors down from Tootsie's Orchid Lounge where EIU alum Jake Maurer plays almost nightly.

The long trip to Tennessee Tech has not produced a BBQ favorite to date nor has the trip to UT Martin, but Martin has less choices than Charleston when looking for places to eat.

Jacksonville State features several good choices as you would expect in the deep south of Alabama. Some of the best cornbread in the world is at Sonny's BBQ in Oxford.

The one that takes the cake is probably at Murray State where the Racers sports information director Dave Winder always provides a nice BBQ spread in the press box for football and basketball which not only tastes good but is free.

So the first trip down the OVC turnpike was a good one as EIU pulled out a 23-14 win in football and had a good lunch stop at 17th street BBQ. If you stop in, the pound of pork shoulder is really more than any one person should eat, but is just too good to resist.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Panthers Hit The Pros

In just two short days former Eastern Illinois football player Pierre Walters will become the latest Panther to don a uniform in the National Football League. Walters was one of 53-players to be named to the Kansas City Chiefs active roster and he will suit up against the Baltimore Ravens in his debut this Sunday at Noon (Central) on CBS.

While Walters road to the NFL stage has been a long battle throughout the summer he becomes the fifth Eastern Illinois athelte from last year's class to begin his professional career. Walters was undrafted in the April NFL draft and signed as a free agent. He was the first of five former Panthers to either sign or be drafted during the summer.

The Major League Baseball draft saw three Panthers be selected including Tyler Kehrer as a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds of the draft. Brett Nommensen and Jordan Kreke would follow in later rounds. All three have been off to productive minor league careers.

Rachel Galligan, EIU's career women's basketball scoring leader, was the final player to sign a professional contract inking with a team in the Spanish Pro League. Galligan headed overseas to begin her career in mid-August.

Eastern Illinois is proud of all five of these young student-atheltes who have achieved their dream of a professional career and we wish them continued success.

Links to each team's professional website are included.

Pierre Walters - Kansas City Chiefs
Tyler Kehrer - Orem Owlz
Brett Nommensen - Hudson Valley Renegades
Jordan Kreke - Danville Braves
Rachel Galligan - Spanish Women's Basketball League

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Panther Nation helps Panthers to win in season opener.

Before the 98th meeting between rival schools Eastern Illinois University and Illinois State University, 10,013 fans outside of O'Brien Field in Charleston meshed together into a sea of blue getting ready for Thursday's football season opener.

Most of the blue sea consisted of, "Panther Nation," a group of students similar to what the University of Illinois calls "Orange Crush."

Tony Romo jerseys, blue wigs, foam hands, beads and pom-poms were all mainstays among Panthers' fans.

Members of Panther Nation were given amenities like free bbq sandwiches from "What's Cookin," a local Charleston restaurant, a tent to play Nintendo Wii and XBOX 360, a beer tent and bounce houses for the younger crowd.

The sandwiches are fantastic and are highly recommended. Strolling in to the tent with the Wii and 360, professor Jon Oliver was enjoying the pregame festivities and looking to play a game of NCAA 10 on the XBOX 360. It would have been nice to take the professor on but time was of the essence and many other freebies needed to be seen.

While all the free amenities drew a large crowd, one crew was supporting a great cause.

Hopefully, everyone got a chance to go to the dunk tank which was set up for the Liz Halbert Scholarship fund.

Halbert brought a campaign against racism to EIU called the "Not in our Town," campaign.

It cost three dollars to throw five balls at a target in an attempt to knock Darius White, vice-president of the Black Student Union at EIU, off of his perch.

After an unsuccessful attempt to knock White to the water, Health Services passed out free hand sanitizer allowing a cleansing of the hands which produced such putrid shots.

With squeaky clean hands, the beer tent appeared to be a fun destination. Fans were served their choice of New Castle Brown Ale and Miller Lite with songs like Kid Rock's "All Summer Long," blasting.

After the beer tent, it was game time.

With three first-quarter turnovers, the game seemed sloppy, but EIU lit up its brand new scoreboard first in the second quarter on a Mon Williams 6-yard touchdown run. Panther Nation went insane as Jake Christensen hit Jimmy Potempa to extend its lead to 14-0.

A third-quarter touchdown sent Panther Nation into a roar and gave EIU, what ended up being, an insurmountable lead.

The team, Panther Nation and all who were a part should be proud of their work as EIU defeated ISU 31-6 for its 39th win against ISU.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Women's Soccer Wins Exhibition

Eastern Illinois women's soccer had a new look on Monday afternoon as the Panthers picked up a 3-0 win over IPFW in exhibition play at Lakeside Field.

While the win was nice it was the style of play that should have Panther soccer fans excited about the possibilities that the 2009 may hold in store. That style installed by new head coach Summer Perala was on display from opening whistle.

EIU won the opening kick and quickly took the ball down field and fired the first of 14 shots on goal in the opening 1:45 of the game as Kaitlin Sullivan made an attempt. IPFW's goalkeeper was able to make the stop but EIU continued the offensive pressure with Ashley Streid scoring at the 18 minute mark.

EIU would tack on two second half goals on penalty kicks by Rachel Hamilton and Sullivan. On the afternoon EIU had a 14-1 shots on goal advantage.

The Panthers were 3-14-2 last season scoring only one goal in their first 12 contests. IPFW was 0-17-1 last season but did put up a fight against OVC predicted champion Murray State in weekend exhibition play losing to the Racers 3-2.

EIU will open its regular season this Friday at IUPUI. Their first home match is on Friday, Sept. 4 at Lakeside Field against Indiana State.

For EIU fans their is definately a different attitude among the EIU women's soccer team and they are deserving of your support all season long.

Besides that you can't be the cost - It's FREE!!!!

Here is the complete game story

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Football First Practice

Eastern Illinois players had their first chance to hit the practice field in preparation for the 2009 season as they practiced under the lights at O'Brien Field on Saturday evening. The decision to practice at night allowed the Panthers to avoid the heat advisory that had hit central Illinois during the day.

"It turned out to be a great night for practice," said long time EIU head coach Bob Spoo as he met with members of the media prior to the first practice. "We are working on improving from last year's season and that means improving in the fundamentals of blocking, tackling and maintaining control of the football."

The first day of practice was done in helmets and shorts as the Panthers work towards the first full day of contact practice on Wednesday. EIU will practice again on Sunday evening and then host media day and a free kid's clinic on Monday afternoon at 1 p.m. at O'Brien Field.

Position Battles

With the transfer of Iowa quarterback Jake Christensen to the mix, Eastern Illinois will open fall camp with the quarterback position as a focus for the second year in a row. Last season the focus was on who would win the back-up position while this year it will be a three-man race for the starting spot. The Panthers return senior Bodie Reeder who was a starter last season and for the final eight games of the 2008 season. Christensen was a starter at Iowa in 2007 and started two games for the Hawkeyes last season before deciding to transfer at the end of the season. In addition to the two seniors, redshirt freshman Doug Reynolds will also challenge for the spot after taking a majority of the snaps during spring workouts.

"I'm excited to get back on the field and play football," said Reeder prior to the start of practice. "Our team was not happy with the way that last season ended and as a senior class we want to return this program to the playoffs. I think as a player you always want to have competition, its what makes you better."

The Panthers will also be looking for some battles at wide receiver. EIU returns one starter from last season in junior Charles Graves. In spring camp sophomore Lorence Ricks stepped up to assume a starting role to open camp. Beyond that EIU will have a large group of incoming freshmen and returning reddshirt freshmen who will battle for that last starting spot and challenge the two incumbent receivers.

The only other position that appears to be open for competition on day one of camp is at defensive line. The Panthers lost three All-OVC starters in Pierre Walters, Donovan Johnson and Jeff Sobol to graduation. The lone returning starter in senior Andre Lima at defensive tackle. Look for Trevor Frericks and Spyros Bazigos to compete on the interior line while the defensive end competition is wide open.

Scoreboard Update

Construction is underway on the new video scoreboard being installed for this season at O'Brien Field. The support beams for the board were cemented into the north endzone last week with the frame work expected to start going up on Tuesday. EIU purchased the new video/audio system for O'Brien Field which will be used for home football games, home track meets and the IHSA State Track Championships. The board was developed by Daktronics, Inc.

The 2009 season opens in less than a month with a Sept. 3 game against Illinois State in the Prairie State Rivalry. Kick off is at 7 p.m. on Thursday night. Season and single game tickets are now on sale at (217) 581-2106 or online at www.eiupanthers.com

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Most Exciting Time Of The Year

It is said that the most exciting time of the year for college sports fans is either college football bowl season, NCAA March Madness or the baseball/softball College World Series depending on which season you favor.

For a coach or administrator in college athletics you would have to say that early August is the most exciting time of the year. The student-athletes are returning to campus and everyone can dream and work towards conference championships and post-season competition. This season is no different on the Eastern Illinois campus.

Earlier this week women's soccer and football returned to Charleston with both getting into a full swing of practices while volleyball reports over the weekend and men's soccer and women's rugby filter into campus over the upcoming week.

Each program is filled with a season of expectations. The women's soccer and volleyball teams are both headed in a different direction as they have new coaches running their programs - Summer Perala in women's soccer and Alan Segal in volleyball. Both programs will find out where they are picked to finish in the Ohio Valley Conference race later this week when the league does its preseason release.

Football preseason polls have already been released with the Panthers projected to finish third in OVC race.

In addition to the excitement on the field are some additions to the coverage of Eastern Illinois Panther Athletics. Already you can find posts on Twitter and Facebook (Eastern-Illinois-Panthers). This fall EIU will also roll out this Panther Athletics Blog along with enhanced podcasts and video content on YouTube.

We look forward to an exciting year of Panther Athletics and hope you can join us for many home events in Charleston and continue to follow us on http://www.eiupanthers.com/

Friday, August 7, 2009

Football Camp Opens, Panthers Add Three

CHARLESTON, Ill. – Eastern Illinois football reported for fall camp on Thursday afternoon with three former NCAA Division I players joining the team for the 2009 season. Those players include Jake Christensen, Mike Letton and Jim Potempa. All three players have been admitted to Eastern Illinois and will begin practicing with the team on Saturday when drills begin.

Christensen was a three-year quarterback at the University of Iowa starting as a sophomore. That season he passed for 2,269 yards and 17 touchdowns as Iowa finished at 6-6. As a junior he started two games for the Hawkeyes finishing the season with 396 yards passing as the team ended the year playing in the Outback Bowl. He participated in the Army All-American Bowl as a senior at Lockport (Ill.) High School. His father Jeff played at Eastern Illinois in the early 1980’s.

Letton transferred to Eastern Illinois after spending last season at the US Naval Academy. He redshirted at Navy after a standout career at Bishop McNamara High School in Custer Park, Ill. Letton, who will play defensive line, signed with EIU out of high school before earning an appointment to Navy.

Potempa is a running back/wide receiver transfer from the University of Michigan. He appeared in three games as a freshman in 2007 before redshirting last season for the Wolverines. He was the East Suburban Catholic Conference Offensive Player of the Year at Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein, Ill.

The Panthers will hold their first practice of the 2009 fall season on Saturday night at 7 p.m. at O’Brien Field. Media day and a free kid’s clinic will take place at O’Brien Field on Monday, August 10 starting at 1 p.m.

The regular season kicks off on Sept. 3 against Illinois State. Season and single game tickets are now on sale by calling 217-581-2106 or online at www.EIUpanthers.com