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Defense bests offense in Southeast Missouri State's spring football game
The Southeast Missouri State football team is a unified group -- except when it comes to the annual spring game.
Then it's every unit for itself, at least as far as the offense and defense is concerned.
"We wanted to put it to the offense," junior linebacker Blake Peiffer said with a smile.
The defense did that, pulling away in the fourth quarter to beat the offense 41-20 in front of about 350 fans at Houck Stadium.
Saturday's intrasquad contest, which concluded spring practice, used a scoring system that allowed both units to score points in a variety of ways.
The defense posted its third straight spring game win. Last year's matchup was stopped early because of lightning and did not resume so there was no winner.
"We just made a few more plays," senior defensive end Steve Hendry said.
Peiffer, a Jackson High School graduate, had nine tackles and a sack.
"We just had fun with it," Peiffer said about the friendly rivalry between the defense and offense.
Hendry had three of Southeast's seven sacks, although it should be noted that quarterbacks were not allowed to be hit.
Officials were instructed to blow a play dead when a defender either put a hand on a quarterback or got in the area so that sack total might not have been nearly as high in an actual game.
"When you get through [to the quarterback], you want to hit them," Hendry said with a laugh. "But you have to pull back. Obviously you don't want to hurt your own guys.
"We've been competitive all spring. We've been getting after each other. It's what we need to carry into the fall to repeat as conference champions."
Senior defensive end Johnnie Morgan had two sacks, with senior linebacker Philip Klaproth adding the other sack. All sacks were worth two points.
The defense also forced two turnovers, worth six points each.
Sophomore linebacker Derek Walker returned an interception 28 yards and freshman safety Tamaris Surdock recovered a fumble.
Surdock and junior college transfer defensive end Taylor Ramsey both were credited with six tackles.
Walker, a 2008 Central High School graduate who has been attending Southeast since then, joined the Redhawks last year as a walk-on. He practiced with the Redhawks while redshirting.
"I told myself I was going to get one [an interception] today," Walker said.
It remains to be seen where Walker fits into Southeast's plans this season, but he hopes to make a mark.
"I'm trying to work my way into some playing time," he said.
Said Southeast coach Tony Samuel of Walker: "He's learning. He's a hard-working kid and he's tough."
Southeast scored two touchdowns, both on passes from sophomore Derek Gibson in the final three minutes of the first half to put the offense ahead 19-15 at the break.
Gibson hit senior Aaron King on a 15-yarder and sophomore D.J. Foster on a 13-yarder. He completed 8 of 10 for 84 yards.
"I'm here for this team, to be the best I can and be ready to go if I'm needed," said Gibson, battling for the backup spot behind all-Ohio Valley Conference senior Matt Scheible.
The elusive Scheible, who was not sacked, had the day's long run of 31 yards. He rushed for 43 yards on three carries.
Junior tailback Renard Celestin, among the candidates trying to fill the void left by the departure of All-American Henry Harris, led Southeast rushers with 65 yards on 13 carries.
Celestin also caught three passes, as did Foster and King.
Junior Drew Geldbach kicked a 53-yard field goal while missing from 38 yards.
The score was 19-19 entering the fourth quarter before the defense pulled away.
"Everybody came out here and played hard," Celestin said. "We've all got things we have to work on, but it [the spring] went pretty good."
Samuel feels the same way as the Redhawks look to replace 15 starters from its record-setting 2010 team that won the program's first OVC title and earned the program's first playoff berth.
"I thought we had a good spring," said Samuel, who enters his sixth season. "It's an interesting combination of experienced guys and new guys. We still have a lot of question marks."
Southeast opens the 2011 season Sept. 3 at home against Southern Illinois.