Football looks to win final home game

Brendan Reidy, Courier Staff

The Western Illinois football team (1-9) will host the Southern Illinois Salukis (6-4) at Hanson field this Saturday.

The Leathernecks are coming off a tough loss to the No. 1 ranked team in the country, North Dakota State, and will look to rebound with a win against the rolling Salukis. These two teams have had completely different seasons. The Leathernecks have struggled greatly to pump out victories this season, whereas the Salukis have had no problem cruising to victories with their high-powered offense.

This weekend, Western Illinois will have the opportunity to put a damper on Southern Illinois’ playoff hopes. With a loss, the Salukis would fall to 6-5 and that puts them on the playoff bubble going into the final week of conference play. Western Illinois may not have any more playoff hope left to play for, but they will be giving their all as they take the field for senior night.

This will be the Leathernecks’ last home game of the season, and all eyes will be on the starting quarterback who has yet to be named. Conor Sampson has been the number one guy all season but has been banged up at times throughout the year, and that has given some playing time to senior transfer Kevin Johnson.

Last week against the Bison, Sampson went down with an undisclosed injury, and no one is quite sure who will be under center come Saturday. Coach Elliott is hopeful Sampson will be ready but said earlier this week on Leatherneck Insider that he and his staff have all the confidence in Johnson if Sampson is not cleared.

Regardless of who is under center, the Leathernecks are going to need to come ready to play on both sides of the ball. The Salukis possess a very high-powered offense and Western

Illinois has to be ready to match the scoring output of SIU.

The Salukis have a handful of weapons on the offensive side of the ball, but the name to keep an eye out for is wide receiver, Landon Lenoir. Lenoir is the brother of former Western Illinois wide receiver Lance Lenoir who starred at Hanson field only a few seasons ago. Just like his brother, he is the number one receiver on his team and will likely have extra incentive to play well at his brother’s Alma Mater.

If the Leathernecks will want to walk away with a W on Senior Day, they will have to look towards their depth. The team got pretty banged up against the Bison, and will be without lockdown corner Marquis Smith and potentially their starting QB in Sampson. Each position will have to work as a group to limit the impact of those losses.

Be sure to catch the Leathernecks one last time before the season ends this weekend. The Salukis and Leathernecks will kick off at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Hanson Field, and if they cannot make the game catch all the action on ESPN+ or 88.3 The Dog.

Twitter: @breidytv