Tigers vs. raiders was real classic

Sunday, November 11, 2001

With all due respect to Southeast Missouri State University's Indians, who have been very fun to watch this season, the year's most exciting football game at Houck Stadium -- by a wide, wide margin -- was a high school affair.

The several thousand fans who had the good fortune to witness the contest know exactly what I'm talking about.

And Wednesday night's 53-52 double-overtime Class 4A sectional victory by Cape Girardeau Central over North County wasn't just the most exciting game of the year at Houck Stadium or in the area. It also has to rank high among the more scintillating Southeast Missouri prep contests of all time.

I really don't know how a game can get much better. It featured a little bit of everything, including one of the most incredible individual performances I've ever seen -- by North County quarterback Reggie AuBuchon -- and a host of huge, clutch plays by both teams.

AuBuchon compiled the almost preposterous total yardage figure of 544, built on 340 yards passing and 204 yards rushing. He had a hand in seven touchdowns.

If not for a missed extra point by the Raiders in the second overtime, the contest might have continued for quite a while longer, which would have only added to its luster.

And the best thing of all is I got paid to watch it, which reminds me once again why I've got to have the best job in the world.

A small footnote to the Cape Central-North County game:

My apologies to Tigers' quarterback Mitch Craft, who had quite a performance of his own, for shortchanging him by about 100 yards in my game story.

Mitch passed for 275 yards and not 172, as I had reported. He also rushed for about 120 yards to play his part in the magnificent quarterback duel.

Sorry about that, Mitch.

It might not look like it by the 4-7 final record, but SEMO's football program improved plenty this year, with coach Tim Billings and his staff bringing in more talent than what the school has seen in quite some time.

Rebuilding a football program generally takes time and SEMO probably needs another one or two strong recruiting classes to get near the overall level of some of the better Ohio Valley Conference teams.

But with many of their key players being underclassmen, it's definitely possible that the Indians can significantly improve in the win-loss column next season and perhaps even challenge for a high OVC finish.

I'm not saying SEMO's men's basketball team will make the NCAA Tournament -- that stands as a huge longshot at this point -- but two years ago the Indians also lost an exhibition game, then went on to reach the NCAA Division I tourney for the first time.

The point is that people shouldn't read too much into Thursday's exhibition loss to Division II Missouri-St. Louis. Exhibition games really mean little other than to get in some work against outside competition in preparation for the regular season.

No, SEMO probably won't be a powerhouse this year. But once the Indians get their full team on the court -- because of various reasons they had only seven available scholarship players against UMSL -- they should be much better than what they showed Thursday.

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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