Southeast Missouri State football team claims its first win

Sunday, September 9, 2012
Southeast Missouri State running back Levi Terrell tries to break free from Mars Hill linebacker Rudy Cabral during the Redhawks’ 30-18 win over the Lions on Saturday at Houck Stadium. (ADAM VOGLER)

The Southeast Missouri State football team never has lost during its annual meeting with a lower-division squad under seventh-year coach Tony Samuel.

But several of those victories have been far from easy, and Saturday night's home opener against Division II Mars Hill College from North Carolina certainly fits that bill.

Southeast survived a mistake-filled game that featured 10 turnovers to notch its first win of the season, 30-18 in front of an announced Houck Stadium crowd of 4,912.

"It was a little bit harder than we wanted it to be," senior tailback Levi Terrell said, who rushed for 128 yards on 22 carries. "But we got the win. It's all that matters."

The Redhawks (1-1) led just 16-12 at halftime, and the Lions (0-2) trailed only 23-12 until Southeast iced the victory by scoring a touchdown with just over three minutes left to go up 30-12.

Southeast Missouri State free safety Tylor Brock cuts toward the sideline after intercepting a Mars Hill pass during the Redhawks 30-18 win over the Lions Saturday, September 8. (ADAM VOGLER)

"They played really well. They really competed," redshirt freshman quarterback Scott Lathrop said about Mars Hill.

Southeast coach Tony Samuel didn't anticipate a cakewalk against the Lions, who earned their first Division II playoff berth and went 8-3 last season.

"They're a good football team. We were expecting a tough game," Samuel said. "We thought they were very talented. They've got speed. They play a really good brand of football."

The Redhawks committed all four of their turnovers in the first half, while the Lions had three turnovers in each half.

"It was a turnover fest," Samuel said. "We had way too many, especially early."

Southeast Missouri State wide receiver D.J. Foster brings down a pass from quarterback Scott Lathrop deep in Mars Hill territory during the Redhawks 30-18 win over the Lions Saturday at Houck Stadium. (ADAM VOGLER)

Southeast's offense drove inside the Lions' 10-yard line three times during the first half without scoring touchdowns, instead having to settle for three field goals.

Samuel thought that allowed the Lions to hang around and gain confidence, which they kept most of the game.

"We tried to make it interesting," Samuel said.

The Redhawks trailed just once, 6-3 in the first quarter, before taking the lead for good at 10-6 on a 5-yard touchdown run by senior tailback Renard Celestin with 51 seconds left in the opening period.

Southeast went up 13-6 early in the second quarter on senior Drew Geldbach's 32-yard field goal. The score was set up by Lathrop's 52-yard option run on which he credited sophomore fullback Ron Coleman.

Southeast Missouri State running back Levi Terrell breaks through the Mars Hill defense during the Redhawks 30-18 win over the Lions Saturday. (ADAM VOGLER)

"Ron told me ‘follow me,' " Lathrop said. "He made a huge block."

But Southeast could not shake the Lions, who cut the deficit to 13-12 on a touchdown with 9:36 remaining before halftime.

Mars Hill likely would have taken the lead were it not for two first-half botched extra points on mishandled snaps. The Lions also fumbled the PAT snap on their final touchdown.

Geldbach's second 22-yard field goal of the opening half, with 3:01 remaining, made it 16-12.

After both teams went three-and-out on their first possessions of the second half, the game might have turned on Southeast's only fumble recovery of the night.

Senior wide receiver Josh Young caught a pass for a first down at the Southeast 20-yard line, but senior safety Tylor Brock stripped the ball loose and true freshman cornerback David Coley recovered.

"That was a huge one," Samuel said.

Southeast had to punt on its next offensive possession, but the Redhawks' defense also forced a punt.

The Redhawks then marched 85 yards for a touchdown to open up some breathing room late in the third quarter.

Lathrop hit sophomore wide receiver Spencer Davis for 27 yards on third-and-10, setting Southeast up at the Mars Hill 40.

Celestin broke off a highlight-reel 39-yard touchdown run two plays later to make it 23-12 with 4:11 left in the third.

Celestin appeared to be nearly knocked off his feet but was able to regain his balance and then tightroped the right sideline. He finished with 93 yards on just nine carries.

"That was a great run," Samuel said.

Southeast's defense held the Lions at bay until the Redhawks' offense iced the victory on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Lathrop to junior wide receiver D.J. Foster with 3:09 remaining.

Mars Hill added the game's final touchdown with 1:07 left.

Southeast outgained Mars Hill in total yardage just 402-367. The Lions had all four of the game's sacks, which did not sit well with Samuel.

"We've got to fix that," he said.

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