Redhawks seek a parting victory

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Twenty-five Southeast seniors will be playing their final game today against Tennessee Tech.

They can't end their college careers with a winning season, but Southeast Missouri State's 25 seniors can finish with a victory.

That's their focus today as the Redhawks (4-6, 2-5 Ohio Valley Conference) close out coach Tony Samuel's first campaign with a 1 p.m. game against Tennessee Tech (3-7, 3-4) at Houck Stadium.

"It's disappointing because we really wanted to have a winning season," senior defensive end Kyle Hunt said. "But we're really focused on finishing strong and winning this game. We've got too many seniors to give up."

Said senior wide receiver Antonio Scaife, "We wanted to get that winning record. Now we want to win that last game. It would be something good for the seniors to remember."

Samuel would like nothing better than to send his seniors out victorious, because he appreciates what they have done all season after he took over a program that went 2-9 last year.

"That's a big number, all those seniors ... you really feel for these guys, what they've been through," Samuel said. "They've been through a lot. That's why I was pushing so hard for a winning season.

"It's hard to describe to the layman what it's like to finally be a senior in college. And the majority of these guys will never suit up again. It's a very emotional day."

Added Samuel, "They've really hung in there and done what we've asked them to do. I think we've established a good foundation, what is expected on and off the field, and they've had a lot to do with it."

The seniors, who will be honored prior to today's game, have been among the Redhawks' top players, not only this year but also over the past few seasons.

"We've got a really good group of seniors, and we've gotten pretty close," Hunt said.

In addition to Hunt and Scaife, Southeast seniors are Corey Andrade, John Ball, Kevin Ballatore, Matt Boyack, Nick Ferguson, Samora Goodson, Stevelan Harper, Seth Harrell, Edgar Jones, Anthony Lumpkin, Charles McCoy, Seth McDowell, Jared Odom, Oge Oge, Elton Peterson, Bernard Quinn, John Radney, Austin Russell, Nick Schmidt, David Simonhoff, Brandon Simpson, Brennan Spain and Jeff Steemer.

Among that group, Simonhoff has already been a two-time All-American punter who figures to make it three in a row this year and is considered a solid NFL prospect, while Jones has been one of premier defensive ends In Division I-AA this year, leading the nation in quarterback sacks with 12. He should also wind up in an NFL training camp.

The majority of the other seniors have also been starters, either this year or in seasons past.

Ballatore, the Redhawks' starting quarterback, missed last week's 31-0 loss at Tennessee State with a back injury. He is expected to play today.

Jones suffered a sprained ankle against Tennessee State, but he is also expected to be ready today.

Two of the Redhawks' seniors -- starting linebacker Harrell and backup tight end McDowell -- are Jackson High School products. Harrell is second on the team with 66 tackles.

While Southeast's seniors hope to end their careers on a winning note, Tech hopes to send its coaching staff out with a victory.

Doug Malone, previously the Eagles' offensive coordinator, has served all season as acting head coach after Mike Hennigan took a medical leave in July.

This week, the university announced that Hennigan has decided not to return to his position.

The university said it would begin searching for a new head coach immediately, and Malone said he plans to be a candidate.

But Malone, who has been at Tech since 1999, is not guaranteed a future position with the program.

The same goes for all of the Eagles' assistants, who have been told that their contracts would not be renewed when they expire in December.

Malone told the Cookeville Herald-Citizen, "How can it not be a distraction? The thing I challenged our players with was that we can be 4-4 in the conference, which we haven't been for a while. We can send our seniors out with a win. We can win three on the road, which hasn't happened in a while.

"To be quite honest, if this is the last game that I am coaching, I'd like to go out a winner. All of those things we will use to try to motivate them to go play their best."

A win for the Redhawks today would allow them to finish tied for sixth in the nine-team OVC, along with Tech. Southeast was picked last in the league's preseason poll.

Noteworthy

* All Southeast faculty and staff, along with family, will be admitted free today with proper university identification.

In addition, all youngsters ages 18 and under will be admitted free.

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