Amid festivities, kicker sends a serious message

Sunday, August 15, 2004

The mood was mostly light at Tuesday's Southeast Missouri State University football media day as coaches and players bantered with reporters and boosters, proclaiming just how great a season they expect to have.

It's a scene of unbridled optimism that takes place at virtually every media day across the country. That's the beauty of the preseason -- all teams have plenty of hope because none of them has lost a game yet. And the Indians do appear to have realistic hopes of challenging for their first Ohio Valley Conference title.

But in the middle of it all, Derek Kutz -- the Indians' superb senior placekicker from St. Vincent High School in Perryville -- had a more serious message that he hopes will lead to lending at least a small hand toward the fight against cancer.

Addressing a gathering that nearly filled one of the large Show Me Center conference rooms during the media day luncheon, Kutz spoke about the campaign he is heading up called "Touchdown 4 A Cure."

Describing how he lost a close friend to cancer last summer, Kutz said he decided this was his last chance to use his athletic platform to do his part in the battle to find a cure for the deadly disease that touches the lives of so many people.

"Touchdown 4 A Cure" consists of football team members seeking pledges from fans for each touchdown or field goal scored by the Indians this season. Regular donations will also be accepted, and all the money raised will go to the kids of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis.

Kutz eloquently talked about how, as college football players, all the Indians are living a dream -- while many youngsters afflicted with cancer might never even be able to participate in a sport on any level.

After listening to Kutz, it was easy to understand why his teammates voted him one of the squad's co-captains for this season -- an honor rarely given to the supposedly low-on-the-football-food-chain kicker.

If a Southeast football player approaches you about a pledge, try to be as generous as possible. It will probably make Kutz and his teammates almost as happy as winning the OVC championship they talked about Tuesday.

Barbecue lovers need to mark their calendars for Thursday through Saturday. That's when, by popular demand, the annual barbecue sale that benefits the Southeast men's basketball team and men's and women's track teams will return to outside Country Mart in Jackson. Sales will be from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. all three days.

Men's basketball coach Gary Garner and his staff, along with track coach Joey Haines and his staff, will once again prepare the meat that will be cooked by Greg Brune, Southeast's director of athletic development.

The available items that can be carried out or eaten on site include full sides of smoked pork ribs for $9.99 each, thick cut pork steaks for $1.99 each, whole bone-in Boston butts for $12.50 each, boneless sliced butts for $3.99 per pound, whole barbecue chickens for $3.99 each and Johnsonville Bratwurst or barbecue pork sandwiches for 99 cents each. Cold canned soda will be available for 35 cents each.

Those wishing to avoid long lines can pre-order by calling the basketball office at 651-5030 or Country Mart at 243-8171.

Garner said the proceeds generated for men's basketball will help fund the Indians' trip to Canada over the Labor Day weekend. Haines said that, because of the barbecue, his track teams will be able to travel by bus instead of van for a few meets.

If you like barbecue and also Southeast sports, here's your chance to help out.

Another popular annual fundraiser for a Southeast team is also on the horizon.

The third annual Indian Insider Kick Off Party, which benefits the football squad, will be Saturday beginning at 7:30 p.m. at the A.C. Brase Arena Building in Cape Girardeau.

The event will include hors d'oevres from Port Cape Girardeau, a full open bar, dancing to the live band "Fantasy" from St. Louis and a chance to win cash and prizes totaling more than $5,000. Sigma Phi Epsilon will provide valet parking and free shuttle service.

Cost is $100, or $150 per couple. For more information or to purchase tickets, call Cody Vardeman at 651-2962 or Laurel Adkisson at 334-1095.

I've been told this semi-formal party is some kind of a blast and it has raised some serious cash for the Indians' football program over the past two years.

The regular season doesn't begin until Aug. 27, but area soccer fans will have an early chance to catch the 2004 Southeast women's team when Memphis visits Houck Stadium Friday for a 6 p.m. exhibition match.

The Otahkians, who have their second and final exhibition contest at 2 p.m. next Sunday against visiting Drury, figure to once again be among the OVC's premier teams.

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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