Southeast gets going, rewards Samuel with win

Sunday, September 3, 2006

It took a while to get going, but the end result was that the Tony Samuel era at Southeast Missouri State began with a bang Saturday night.

Most people probably didn't expect anything different, but the Redhawks made sure Samuel would be able to relish his first game as their head coach by pulling away from Austin Peay 38-13.

Even though Southeast went 2-9 last year and has been predicted to occupy the cellar in the nine-team Ohio Valley Conference, the Redhawks were considered solid favorites over the host Governors, who also compiled a 2-9 record in 2005 as a nonscholarship Division I-AA program.

Upstart Austin Peay, only operating at about the half-scholarship level right now and featuring 51 freshmen on its 84-man roster, gave the Redhawks a run for their money for a while.

The teams were tied 10-10 at halftime and Southeast did not take its first lead until the third quarter. The Redhawks then dominated on their way to the lopsided triumph.

So the Redhawks did exactly what they were supposed to do -- but being expected to do something, then going out and actually doing it are two different things. So give Southeast credit for taking care of business.

Southeast was far from perfect Saturday night, as you would expect in a first game. The Redhawks are still a work in progress, and that likely will continue to be the case for quite a while.

But the bottom line is that Southeast is 1-0 for the first time since 2002. Sure, you can credit a watered-down nonconference schedule for that, but as the saying goes: A win is a win.

Speaking of victories, Division II Missouri-Rolla comes to Houck Stadium next Saturday for Southeast's home opener. The Miners feature an explosive offense, but they are 0-1 after losing to fellow D-II Tiffin 58-32 on Aug. 26 -- and allowing more than 400 yards rushing in the process.

Barring the unforeseen, expect the Redhawks to start out 2-0 before they face their first true test on Sept. 16 when they open OVC play at perennial conference power Jacksonville State.

That Jacksonville State matchup figures to be a bear, as do many others that follow.

Worrying about potential pitfalls, however, can wait for another day. For now, allow Samuel and company to enjoy their first triumph.

Southeast's defense was probably the most impressive part of the Redhawks' team during preseason practice, and the defense showed up in the second half Saturday to help turn the tide.

Senior end Edgar Jones and junior linebacker Adam Casper seemed to be all over the field in leading the charge. Jones had 2 1/2 sacks while Casper scored a touchdown on a fumble return and intercepted a pass.

Samuel has already shown that he runs a pretty tight ship and won't hesitate to dole out discipline when he believes it is warranted.

It was announced shortly before Saturday's opener that starting cornerbacks Monroe Hicks and Todshon Jones had been suspended for the game for violating unspecified team policy.

The Sports Network, which covers Division I-AA football extensively, recently released its rankings of the 12 I-AA conferences that award scholarships.

The Gateway Conference, of which Southern Illinois is a member, led the way at No. 1, while the OVC came in at No. 7.

But The Sports Network did praise the OVC a bit, saying the league is improved, especially at the top with the anticipated big three of Eastern Kentucky, Eastern Illinois and Jacksonville State.

Southeast men's basketball fans are no doubt excited by what has the potential to be a very good team this season. In the conversations I've had with first-year coach Scott Edgar, he seems to feel the same way.

But in addition to that, Edgar continues to stockpile plenty of talent for the future.

Hubert Perry, the 6-foot-7, 220-pound transfer forward who recently joined the program, is according to at least one scouting Web site an incredible athlete.

Perry originally signed with Mississippi, got out of his letter of intent when Rod Barnes was let go as coach, then landed at Ball State this summer before departing and coming to Southeast.

Perry, who has all four years of eligibility remaining, will be able to practice with the Redhawks this season but won't be able to play in games until the 2007-08 campaign.

The same goes for Calvin Williams, a 6-8 forward who saw limited action at Colorado last season. He has three years of eligibility remaining.

Most of the Redhawks' top players this season figure to be the ones with eligibily beyond 2006-07, meaning they'll all be eligible to return the following year, when Perry and Williams -- and probably more players -- join the mix.

While many of the nonconference games had already been announced, Southeast officially released its 2006-07 men's basketball schedule Thursday.

It's a demanding one to say the least, featuring three "money" games on the road, against Arkansas, Iowa State and Purdue.

There is also the Top of the World Classic in Alaska, where the Redhawks will play three times, along with a game at Evansville of the Missouri Valley Conference and a home BracketBuster date against an undetermined opponent after Cal-Riverside returns last year's BracketBuster contest to the Show Me Center.

Major, major congratulations are in order for the Chaffee High School football team as the Red Devils broke a 34-game losing streak Friday night by pounding host Grandview 43-14 in their season opener.

The Red Devils had not experienced victory since 2002 before taking out their frustrations on the Eagles.

Perhaps lost in the shuffle of so much futility is the fact Chaffee's players and coaches had continued to work and work without receiving any tangible results. It's a lot harder to keep putting in the time and effort when things are going bad than when things are going good.

That's why I was personally so pleased for everybody associated with the program.

And there just might be more wins around the corner for the Red Devils, who appear to be on the upswing under classy and extremely accomplished coach Charlie Vickery.

Also around the local prep football scene, kudos to Perryville's Pirates, who went winless last year but opened their football season with a 21-7 win at Pacific on Friday night.

And, even though Central dropped its 2006 debut 29-7 at home to Parkway North, I enjoyed covering the game because I don't get out to nearly as many high school events as I used to due to all of my Southeast coverage duties.

I received an added bonus after the contest when I hit the Houck Stadium field for some interviews. There I ran into old friend Jim Parks, a former Southeast baseball star who is the offensive coordinator for Parkway North. He has been at the school the past 15 years.

Parks pitched for Southeast for four seasons, completing his eligibility in 1991. His 10 wins in 1989 are tied for the fourth-highest single-season total in program history. He also ranks in the top 10 in career appearances, starts and innings pitched.

The recently released book about Gene Bess has produced numerous tributes to the longtime Three Rivers Community College basketball coach.

And I might add they are all richly deserved.

Bess, college basketball's all-time winningest coach with more than 1,000 victories in 36 seasons, has truly been one of the region's class acts.

I look forward to reading "Gene Bess, College Basketball's Winningest Coach," which was written by Nadine Roberts and Cindy Richardson, who are both teachers at TRCC.

As the Cardinals continue to try and hold on to a playoff spot, two pretty neat stories have developed.

First, there is Chris Duncan, who has been without a doubt the team's most pleasant surprise this year. He has provided unexpected punch from the left field spot.

And most recently, backup catcher Gary Bennett came out of virtually nowhere to provide plenty of fireworks, including game-ending hits last weekend in consecutive wins over the Cubs. Among Bennett's walk-off hits was a memorable grand slam on Aug. 27.

One more Cardinals note: I know it's really easy to bash general manager Walt Jocketty now that his trade for Mark Mulder officially looks like a total bust.

But that's the nature of trades. When that one was made, even though Jocketty gave up significant young talent -- led by Danny Haren -- it was hard to criticize because St. Louis acquired a player who at the time was among baseball's premier hurlers.

Jocketty has pulled off more than his share of trades that turned out great. But if a GM makes enough trades, he's bound to have a clinker now and then.

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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