Freshman quarterback Justin Haddix will trot into Smith Stadium as a Topper Saturday.
But things could have been much different if it weren’t for a scholarship twist that led Haddix away from Richmond and in the direction of Bowling Green.
A few of Haddix’s high school coaches attended Eastern and worked hard to persuade their passing prodigy to become a Colonel.
When Haddix decided he wanted to attend a college that was close to home, Eastern looked to be a front runner. The Mr. Football runner-up was optimistic when he headed to Eastern’s campus for an official visit.
After arriving in Richmond, Haddix was told there were no more scholarships available.
Ultimately, Haddix landed at Western where he has thrived under quarterbacks coach Willie Taggart.
“It was all right,” Haddix said of his visit to Eastern. “But I like it better here … I’m in a much better place and I couldn’t ask for better teammates.”
Haddix expects a large contingent of fans from his native Breathitt County to be at the game Saturday, including the coaches that pushed him to wear maroon and white.
Eastern enters after loss
The Colonels amassed 614 total yards Saturday against Central Michigan, a I-A program, but fell 42-41 to the Chippewas. Eastern (1-2) led 34-14 in the third quarter before Central Michigan rallied to score 21 straight points to take the lead.
“It was a real tough loss for our football team,” Eastern coach Danny Hope said in a press release. “If we would have played 60 minutes of composed football, we would have walked away with the victory.”
Eastern took a 41-35 lead with 9:38 left in the game when backup quarterback Adam Ellis hit Andre Ralston for an 80-yard touchdown reception.
Junior quarterback Matt Guice completed 21-of-27 passes for 291 yards and a touchdown for the Colonels. Guice was named Ohio Valley Conference Newcomer of the Week.
Both of Eastern’s losses have come at the hands of I-A opponents. The Colonels lost their season opener 63-13 to Bowling Green State of the Mid-American Conference.
Eastern beat Appalachian State 35-7 Sept. 6 when the Mountaineers were ranked No. 11.
Western in the polls
Despite having last weekend off, the Toppers moved up in The Sports Network top 25. Western (2-0) is now ranked third and received 15 first place votes.
Elson said he doesn’t pay much attention to the rankings until the end of the season and pokes fun at his team’s jump on its off week.
“Maybe we can take the next two weeks off and maybe we’ll be No.1.” Elson said.
Eastern also received votes but did not make the top 25. McNeese St. reclaimed the top spot after defeating then-No. 3 Georgia Southern.
Game nearing sellout
For weeks, Western has hyped Saturday’s game, aiming for the first sellout of Smith Stadium since the Eastern game in 1996.
As of yesterday afternoon, representatives from the ticket office said 11,000 tickets have been sold for the Eastern game.
Smith Stadium’s capacity is listed at 17,500.
The figure includes the block of tickets allotted to Eastern.
Reach Michael Casagrande at [email protected]