Seniors huddle at the football banquet to shout out one final chant. (Amanda Wheeler)

By Clay Ward

The stage was set Sunday night to honor some of Eastern’s finest at the Colonel football banquet. This year’s football banquet was filled with a range of emotions all around.First was a sense of accomplishment for the players, who brought the Ohio Valley Conference title back to Eastern.

Accomplishment preceded a somber sadness, rising along with the realization that it all had come to an end,not only for the seniors, who had done so much for Eastern, but for Eastern’s beloved coach, Danny Hope, as well.

Finally, pride overwhelmed everyone, as Eastern’s seniors said goodbye to Colonel football in their own unique way: via song.

The banquet started with President Doug Whitlock speaking on the pride Eastern athletics bring to the university and how, to find a source of that pride, people need not look any farther than our own football team.

Whitlock was brief, but made sure to include his gratitude to Hope before he parted ways with the university. He also mentioned Eastern’s final game against Western when he said, “I would like to see Eastern end the rivalry with a ‘W’.”

And the departing Hope played the role of master of ceremonies for most of the night.

Hope began by describing this season, starting right from the beginning at two-a-days. He told a story that reflected why he thought it would be a good year for the Colonels.

“During the first day of two-a-days, a player had told me we had used up all the ice on campus-all the ice allowed for all of two-a-days,” Hope said. “So I gave him some money and sent him down to the liquor store to get us some more ice.”

Hope continued reminiscing about individual games, starting with the two losses early in the season.

He also talked about how Kentucky really improved the schedule and competition to prepare Eastern for the rest of the season.

And Hope did not sugarcoat why he loves the Western game. “I told a paper earlier this year, I still hate them (Western),” he said. “That’s why I love playing them.”

In-conference teams were not immune to Coach Hope’s verbal abuse.

While talking about Samford, Hope explained how there was no love loss between the two programs and summed up with, “I’m glad we beat them; I’m glad we beat them soundly and I’m glad they left here unhappy.”

The awards ceremony went on to induct members into the winners’ club and Roy Kidd/Worn Cleat Club. The night finished by honoring the trifecta that dominated the OVC accolades: Danny Hope, Alan Holland and Derrick Huff.

Senior defensive backs Derrick Huff and Brandon Gathof earned All-American honors. Senior Justin Curry was named Football Championship Series Athletics Directors Association Academic All-Star.