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Backup quarterback Patrick Heitert takes the stage
The SEMO Redhawks football team has had an eventful past week. The Redhawks went on the road to face Tennessee Tech. on Oct. 21 and with it being a conference matchup in the OVC, the Redhawks needed and were eager to get a big win.
In the middle of the game junior quarterback Paxton DeLaurent went down with an apparent shoulder injury, and didn’t return to the game. That would bring on the second string, 6 foot, 215 pound redshirt freshmen Patrick Heitert.
Heitert would redshirt his freshman year in 2022 and gain an extra year of eligibility. He would however get several snaps and complete 21/36 passes for 221 yards in two games. Heitert would get his first ever college game against Eastern Illinois in a game where Paxton DeLaurent went down with an injury. In this game he was 11/17 on completions for 140 yards. He would end up starting his first game in the last game of the regular season against the Murray State Racers on November 19, and complete 10/19 passes for 81 yards in a 52-22 win.
“It was really exciting. Similar to last season against Eastern Illinois, there is really no time to be nervous,” Heitert said. “You’re prepared all week for that kind of moment. So you know when you run out there with the other ten guys, you know they’ve got your back.”
Despite the sudden injury to DeLaurent, the Redhawks led by Heitert still managed to get a more than convincing win defeating Tennessee Tech. 27-3. Senior wide receiver Ryan Flournoy talked about Heitert coming in and getting the big win.
“It was kind of sad that Paxton went down but you’ve got to follow Patrick. Patrick is a good leader. He’s young but knows how to play football. So I’m just going to follow him to the endzone,” Flournoy said.
Head Coach Tom Matukewicz also had high praise for Heitert stepping up to get the win. He was also proud of the team's ability to step up and rally around Heitert.
“Even in the game when the injury happened, they kind of rallied around him. He’s got a lot of credibility on the team,” Matukewicz said. “That’s where adversity either splinters you or galvanizes you. It’s kind of one of the two and if you have good connections, he’s well respected and it’s a good time to respond.”
Heitert believes that the team is a group and that the connection is strong, which is one of the reasons they responded to the adversity so well.
“It’s a really close group of guys. We love being around each other and I feel like everyone is pretty well connected. So, I mean, I knew from the moment Paxton went down that I had the team’s support and there wasn’t going to be any time to slow down,” Heitert said.
Although officially stepping into a new role as the starter this week, Heitert’s preparation has stayed close to the same. Heitert and the receiving core have also been deepening their connection on the field by staying late after practice.
“It was the same kind of preparation, just a little bit more reps this week, a little bit more film study and you know, talking to the starters like Ryan (Flournoy) and Geno (Hess),” Heitert said. “We’ve had to stay after practice for a couple of days and just get some timing down that we haven’t had before, but I think the connection has been pretty smooth. They’re great players, I just have to put the ball around them.”
Flournoy is also very excited for the new connection being made with Heitert.
“It’s always going to be hard at first. We probably had some balls on the ground during our first practice, but now it is natural. It’s almost like second nature with him watching the ball come in his hands and watching the ball in my hands,” Flournoy said.
Each quarterback brings something different to the table, and Heitert is no exception. Matukewicz had high praise for Heitert.
“He’s a good player. He’s a proven player. He’s undefeated as a quarterback. It’s different when you’re now the guy. The coordinators are gonna study you and try to get you to pay that payment so to speak and it will be different, but now he’s proven himself so far,” Matukewicz said.
Heitert believes he can sustain drives down the field as a quarterback.
“I think I’m a pretty efficient decision maker and can just sustain drives down the field and get the ball into playmakers hands.”
He believes this is something as a quarterback that allows him to elevate the team.
Since DeLaurent’s injury in the game against Tennessee Tech. Heitert and the Redhawks have gone 2-1 in their last three games. Heitert has had impressive performances through the three games accumulating 462 yards on 38/70 passing. He has also had three touchdowns and one interception.