Local high schools provide Southeast Missouri State football team with five walk-ons

Tuesday, August 7, 2012
Southeast Missouri State head football coach Tony Samuel fields questions Monday morning, Aug. 6, 2012 during media day at Houck Field. (Laura Simon)

The Southeast Missouri State football team has one player from the immediate area who is well established as a collegiate star.

Several others are trying to make their mark with the Redhawks as walk-ons.

People who follow area football likely know all about Blake Peiffer, the Jackson High School graduate who ranks among the top linebackers in program history.

Peiffer earned a spot on several All-American teams last year when he led the Ohio Valley Conference in tackles and ranked third nationally with a school-record 151. He enters his senior campaign as the OVC preseason defensive player of the year and a preseason All-American.

Southeast has five walk-ons who played high school football in the Southeast Missourian coverage area.

Southeast Missouri State coach Tony Samuel shares a laugh with players Renard Celestin, left, and Lennies McFerren during media day Monday at Houck Stadium. (Laura Simon)

Senior linebacker Derek Walker from Central and sophomore fullback Brandon Beck from Jackson joined the Redhawks last season. They both played in most of Southeast's games, primarily on special teams, and finished with six and five tackles, respectively.

First-year local walk-ons are junior cornerback Cantrell Andrews from Central, redshirt freshman wide receiver Garett Schaefer from Scott City and true freshman tailback Tyson Estes from Chaffee. Andrews and Schaefer went through spring practice.

"It's always great to have local kids in the program," Southeast coach Tony Samuel said during Monday's media day. "Everybody knows about Blake, but they're all a bunch of good kids who work hard."

Andrews is the only one among the locals who appears headed for consistent playing time besides Peiffer.

Andrews, who began his collegiate career at NAIA Missouri Valley College, transferred to Southeast last fall and practiced with the Redhawks but could not participate in games under NCAA transfer rules.

Andrews worked with the first unit most of the spring and was listed No. 1 on the depth chart entering preseason camp.

"He had a very good spring," Samuel said.

Rules change

Major rules changes this year, aimed at improved player safety, center on kickoffs.

Kickoffs will be moved up five yards to the 35-yard line, and touchbacks on kickoffs (as well as free kicks after safeties) will be moved up five yards to the 25-yard line. All other touchbacks still will have the ball placed at the 20.

The kicking team also will be required to line up no further than five yards behind the ball, which will give players less of a running start.

Another key change is that players fielding onside/squib kicks will be afforded protection on the first bounce. The kickoff team must wait until the ball bounces twice before it can make contact with a player.

"It's going to be interesting," Samuel said about the changes.

The NCAA Football Rules Committee recommended the changes to try to reduce the number of concussions during the course of a game which, according to the committee, occur at a higher rate on kickoff returns than other plays.

The rules committee hopes the changes result in fewer runbacks and decrease the impact on collisions.

"The theory is you won't have the great collisions and you'll have more touchbacks," Samuel said. "The whole idea is to minimize collisions. The NFL moved the ball up on kickoffs, and they had a huge drop in concussions."

Captains elected

Peiffer and senior tailback Levi Terrell have been voted captains by their teammates for this season.

Terrell was Southeast's third-leading rusher last year with 312 yards despite missing the final six games with a broken collarbone. He had rushed for more than 100 yards in consecutive contests when he suffered the injury.

"They're very good leaders," Samuel said.

Hall of Fame

Southeast athletics is welcoming nominations for its 10th Hall of Fame class.

Nominations, which can be made by anyone, must be made on the official nomination form and mailed to the address printed at the bottom of the form. Forms can be found at gosoutheast.com.

The Hall of Fame represents the entire Southeast community, including student-athletes, coaches, staff, donors and fans.

Southeast's Athletic Hall of Fame currently includes 71 individuals and 14 teams.

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