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Reigning OVC champion SEMO returns to work
The Southeast Missouri State football team held its first preseason practice as defending Ohio Valley Conference champions Saturday.
Southeast players say they’re not about to rest on their laurels following the historic 2010 campaign.
“Last year is over. We have to start back from the basics,” senior defensive lineman Steve Hendry said. “It’s a completely new team, a completely new league.”
Added junior kicker Drew Geldbach: “Last year was awesome, but it’s over now. We have to prove ourselves all over again.”
The Redhawks are coming off a record-setting campaign that saw them go 9-3 overall and 7-1 in league play to win the program’s first OVC title and earn the program’s first playoff berth on any level.
Southeast, which earned the program’s highest-ever national ranking of No. 7 and wound up 13th, lost in the second round of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs at eventual national champion Eastern Washington after receiving an opening-round bye.
“It was a great experience for everybody on the team last year, a lot of fun. We’re proud of what we did,” all-OVC senior quarterback Matt Scheible said. “But last year was last year. It’s a new team. Our goals are the same. We don’t want to just be a one-year thing.”
The Redhawks acknowledge that they face plenty of question marks. They must replace 14 starters, including several All-Americans. But Southeast does welcome back quite a few key pieces among 40 returning lettermen.
“We lost a lot of good seniors, but we have a good core group coming back and some guys are going to step up,” Scheible said.
Southeast’s initial practice of preseason camp was a late-afternoon session at the Rosengarten Athletic Complex that lasted about 2 1/2 hours. The only equipment donned was helmets, per NCAA regulations for the opening practice.
“It’s good to be back. We have a lot of work to do,” said Southeast coach Tony Samuel, whose squad began camp with 102 players, including quite a few walk-ons. “Typically the first day they move around pretty good.”
Scheible said the Redhawks were eager to get on the field for some football after reporting to camp Thursday.
“We’ve been doing conditioning tests, having a bunch of meetings the last two days,” Scheible said. “We were getting restless.”
The Redhawks thought the opening practice went well, although there is a limit to how much can be accomplished without pads.
That will change beginning today when the Redhawks put on shoulder pads for the first time during camp. Their initial full-pad workout will be Tuesday, with the first of four two-a-day sessions Wednesday. The first of two scrimmages is set for Aug. 13.
“When you’re not in pads, there will be limitations,” Hendry said. “The tempo was really good, but we’re looking forward to going in shoulder pads tomorrow.”
The players seemed to work well through the extreme heat that has been a constant for several weeks. A break from the sweltering conditions is expected in a few days.
“Most of the guys have been here over the summer working out,” Scheible said. “I think we’re in good shape and I think we’re used to the heat.”
Samuel said Scheible and senior safety Bryan Blanfort have been voted captains by their teammates for this season. They were among Southeast’s three captains last year, along with graduated linebacker Joshua Jackson.
Blanfort missed all of the 2010 season with a knee injury after being among the Redhawks’ top players the previous year.
“They’re two very good leaders,” Samuel said.
By Marty Mishow, Southeast Missourian