National publications predict Redhawks will finish seventh in OVC football race

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Southeast Missouri State football team is still neary three weeks away from beginning practice, and the Redhawks' first game isn't until Aug. 30.

But the preseason predictions and prognostications are already flying around hot and heavy.

College football preview magazines have been on the shelves for a while now, and three that cover Division I-AA -- Street & Smith's, Lindy's and Phil Steele's -- have all picked Southeast to finish seventh in the 10-team Ohio Valley Conference.

That sounds about right for a preseason guess, after the Redhawks wound up seventh in what was a nine-team league last year, finishing ahead of only Samford and Murray State.

Coming off a 4-7 record -- 2-6 in the OVC -- during Tony Samuel's first season as coach, the Redhawks face the task of replacing 25 seniors, many of whom were among the squad's top players.

I'll have much more to say about Southeast football as the season draws a bit closer, but I don't expect a whole lot from the Redhawks this year as they will basically be young and inexperienced.

But I don't think you can judge how well Samuel's rebuilding project is going until probably his third season, when virtually all of his players will be ones that he and his staff recruited, although that is pretty much the case right now for the majority of the roster.

Of course, there are surprise teams every year, and maybe Samuel's Redhawks will be one of those.

By the way, the official OVC preseason poll -- voted on by the league's coaches and sports information directors -- will be revealed July 24 at the conference's annual media day in Nashville, Tenn.

Eastern Illinois and Tennessee-Martin, who tied for the OVC championship last year, are pretty much the consensus one-two preseason picks.

Those squads have shown up in many of the preseason Division I-AA national polls that I've seen so far, with Street & Smith's rating EIU 14th and UTM 18th.

On the other end of the spectrum, Samford, Murray State and Austin Peay are the consensus selections to hold down the bottom three spots in the OVC, although not always in that order.

Also, Street & Smith's has Southern Illinois ranked 20th nationally, but only fourth in what again figures to be a loaded Gateway Conference.

It wasn't really publicized, although he was on hand for spring practice, but Southeast will have an additional Division I-A transfer of sorts on its roster for the upcoming season.

Quentin Brown, a 6-foot-6, 260-pound sophomore defensive end, originally attended North Carolina State, where he redshirted in 2005.

Brown transferred to Southeast last year but sat out the season. He made two tackes in the spring game and enters fall practice listed as a starter.

Brown attended the same high school in Orlando, Fla., as Southeast junior tailback Tim Holloman, who led the Redhawks in rushing each of the past two seasons.

Southeast's only other Division I-A transfer currently listed on the roster is senior fullback Clint Jones, who started for the Redhawks last season after leaving New Mexico State.

One more college football note, major-division style:

Street & Smith's ranks Missouri No. 18 nationally and picks the Tigers to win the Big 12 North title.

That should make local Tigers fans pretty happy.

I wrote last week about former Southeast baseball standout Justin Christian being promoted from Class AA to Class AAA in the New York Yankees organization.

Well, another former Southeast baseball star recently met with a similar good fortune.

Zach Borowiak, who had been with Class AA Portland, Maine, in the Boston Red Sox organization the past two years, was bumped up to Class AAA Pawtucket, R.I., on July 2.

Borowiak, a native of Nashville, Ill., was Southeast's outstanding starting shortstop from 2000 through 2003 and he ranks high on many of the program's records lists. He was taken in the 14th round of the 2003 amateur draft.

Borowiak was batting just .229 for Portland, with two home runs and 21 RBIs, after he hit only .216 for the team last year. He was hitless in six at-bats covering three games for Pawtucket entering the weekend.

Since Borowiak wasn't tearing things up offensively, it's hard to say if he will remain with Pawtucket for a considerable period of time, or if the squad simply needed somebody to fill a particular role for a short while.

But Borowiak had made only five errors this year at Portland while seeing action at second base, third base, shortstop and first base, so his versatility no doubt bolstered his first-ever call-up to Class AAA.

Regardless of the circumstances, here's wishing Borowiak all the best during his stay at the highest level of the minor leagues, and also during his hoped-for rise to the majors.

I got to know Borowiak extremely well during his days at Southeast, and often see him in Cape Girardeau during his offseasons. He's a super young man and a class act all the way.

Christian, by the way, is off to a strong start at Class AAA Scranton-Wilkes Barre (Pa.).

Entering the weekend, the speedy outfielder was batting .342 (26 of 76) with five doubles, three triples, 11 RBIs and seve stolen bases without being caught.

That's the kind of production that will put a guy on the fast track to the big leagues.

Southeast product Derek Kutz recently had his second game-winning kick in his rookie season of professional football.

Kutz, a St. Vincent High School graduate, drilled a 25-yard field goal as time expired to lift the RiverCity Rage to a 41-38 victory over the Evansville BlueCats on July 7.

Kutz, who hit all four of his field-goal attempts in the game, booted a 43-yarder to win a game at Evansville on March 24.

Kutz was Southeast's kicker from 2001 through 2004. He is in his first year with the Rage, who are based in St. Charles, Mo., and compete in the United Indoor Football League.

Kutz and the Rage will host a first-round UIF playoff game on July 22 at Family Arena in St. Charles.

Southeast women's basketball coach John Ishee told me that the field is filling up fast, but there are still openings available for his program's fundraiser golf event.

The Team Swish tournament is set for Aug. 6 at Dalhousie Golf Club. The four-person scramble will have morning (7:30 a.m.) and afternoon (1:30 p.m.) shotgun starts.

The entry fee is $135 per person or $540 per team, which includes lunch, beverages and giveaways.

Ishee said he personally assures that everybody who participates will have a great time -- and money raised will go toward helping Southeast's most successful athletic program over the last two years.

The Redhawks have won back-to-back OVC regular-season and tournament titles, while making consecutive appearances in the NCAA tournament.

To reserve a spot in the golf tournament, or for more information, call Bob Phillips (225-2466) or Mark Matthews (275-5240).

I'll focus on the National Baseball Congress Mid-South Regional -- the finals are today at Capaha Field -- in next Sunday's column.

But the Plaza Tire Capahas sure dodged a major bullet Friday from a solid Springfield (Mo.) Generals team, which led virtually the entire night before the Caps squeezed out a 6-5, 10-inning victory.

The Capahas then disposed of the Charleston Riverdogs Saturday and today they'll shoot for their third straight regional title.

First, let me say I am generally a Tony La Russa fan, unlike seemingly a lot of people in the area who simply don't like the St. Louis Cardinals' manager despite all the success he's had.

But that was a totally bizarre move -- or non-move -- by La Russa in not pinch-hitting Albert Pujols with the bases loaded and two outs during the ninth inning of Tuesday's All-Star Game.

It was fairly bizarre enough that La Russa had not played the Cardinals' lone All-Star representative to that point.

But since Pujols was still on the bench, he simply had to hit in the clutch situation that saw the National League trailing 5-4, which ended up being the final.

At least La Russa admitted he made a mistake later in the week.

Roger Federer pulled off a remarkable feat last Sunday when he won his fifth straight Wimbledon men's singles title.

For a change at Wimbledon, Federer was pushed to the limit by Rafael Nadal, but Federer pulled out a five-set thriller.

Federer and Nadal have built up quite a rivalry -- intense yet friendly -- over the past couple of years, and if you're a tennis fan, you've got to hope it continues.

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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