Leathernecks to bounce back against Bobcats in home-opener

Josh Purnell, Courier Staff

The Western Illinois University football team will have their first home game of the season tomorrow afternoon at Hanson Field against Montana State University at 3 p.m.

This will be Western’s third matchup against Montana State and they are hoping to add a win to this series. The Fighting Leathernecks started the season off on the wrong foot, recording 0-2 on the season. Both games were on the road against University of North Alabama and Colorado State. Adding a win to the win column can keep a playoff run possible, although Western has not been to the playoffs in two years.

Junior quarterback Connor Sampson will start his first home game of the season. Sampson was voted team captain and will be the new quarterback for the Leathernecks this season. He backed up Sean McGuire, who is Western’s all time leader in yards and touchdowns. In the last two games, Sampson has thrown 334 yards with a touchdown and only one interception. Sampson will offensively be backed up by running back Kendon Walker and receiver Tony Tate. Walker has 110 rushing yards and zero touchdowns on the season. Tate has six catches for 94 yards and one touchdown on the season.

On the defensive side of the ball, Western’s defense has given up 64 points in the last two games. Junior Kyle William led the team with 12 tackles and one sack. Junior Mike Viti had an outstanding performance against Colorado State with 11 tackles and one forced fumble. With these two players on the field, the opposing team has a problem. The defense is a big part of this team and there will be high expectations going into tomorrow’s game.

For the opponents, the competition may be tough this week. Montana State is coming off a victory against Southeast Missouri State, winning 38-17. Their overall record for the season is 1-1. The Bobcats offense is led by freshman quarterback Casey Bauman, who has 234 yards with two touchdowns and only one interception for the season. Montana State has a strong run game led by sophomore Isaiah Ifanse, who has 197 yards and zero touchdowns. Ifanse broke for a 62 yard run against Southeast Missouri State, the longest run of the season. Out wide, their number one receiver, senior Kevin Kassis, has nine catches for 129 yards and zero touchdowns.

The Bobcats’ defense will be led by senior defensive end Bryce Sterk, who has 12 tackles and four sacks for the season. In the secondary, senior JoJo Henderson has three solo tackles and leads the team with one interception.

Although the Fighting Leathernecks started the season 0-2, one thing we know about the Leathernecks is that they never give up; they keep fighting and fighting till the clock hits zero. This win will determine the team’s season as they face a tough matchup against the Bobcats. Expect Sampson to put on a show and for the defense to prove why they are the best defense in the Missouri Valley Conference. Western Illinois’ next game will be versus Tennessee Tech University at 3 p.m. at Hanson Field.