Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Southeast dominates SIU to win the War for the Wheel

Saturday, August 31, 2019
Redhawks sophomore running back Zion Custis makes a juke move to pick up additional yardage against Southern Illinois.
Photo by Ramond Buck

The second installment of the War for the Wheel was a one-sided affair as the Southeast football team cruised to a 44-26 victory over rival Southern Illinois University.

Head coach Tom Matukewicz said he was impressed with the 8,300 fans that packed Houck Field for the home opener.

“One thing that stands out is the students. Some of you guys haven’t been here as long as I have and that’s never happened,” Matukewicz said. “They were really into it, and that was really cool.”

The Redhawks were led to victory by redshirt-senior quarterback Daniel Santacaterina and senior linebacker Zach Hall, who each had huge games in their final War for the Wheel.

Santacaterina took care of business both in the air and on the ground, throwing for 248 yards and a score and rushing for 54 yards and two touchdowns. Hall finished with 19 tackles and one sack.

Redshirt senior wide receiver Kristian Wilkerson was Santacaterina’s main target as Wilkerson had six receptions for 146 yards and a touchdown.

The Redhawks tore it up on the ground. They totaled 282 rushing yards despite not having a single 100-yard rusher.

Sophomore running back Zion Custis, redshirt-freshman Geno Hess and junior Mark Robinson were a three-headed monster on the ground, gaining 78, 77 and 73 yards, respectively. The balanced rushing attack paid off for the Redhawks as each back found the endzone once.

“They’re really reliable,” Santacaterina said. “They had a great first game as a trio, and they’ll just get better from here.”

The game was decided in the second and third quarters as Southeast to turn a 14-7 deficit into a 37-14 lead.

The 30-point run began with about four minutes left in the second quarter when Custis found paydirt from four yards out to finish off a quick Southeast drive that saw 65 yards covered in four plays. SIU blocked the extra point to keep the Redhawks down 14-13.

With 30 seconds left to go in the first half, Southeast took the lead they would not relinquish when Robinson plowed in from a yard out to make it a 20-14 Redhawks’ lead.

Southeast dominated the third quarter 17-0. The scoring was started by a 22-yard field goal from junior kicker Kendrick Tiller off of a 12-play 60-yard drive to make it 23-14.

Southeast tacked on two touchdowns toward the end of the third quarter to cap off the 30-0 run. Santacaterina ran in from seven yards out to make it a 30-14 Redhawks’ lead. With a minute left in the quarter, Santacaterina found Wilkerson for an 18-yard touchdown pass to cap off the big third quarter and extend the lead to 37-14.

SIU got a rushing touchdown from senior running back D.J. Davis to cut the lead to 37-20 at the beginning of the fourth. With 10 minutes left, Hess put the nail in the Salukis’ coffin with a rushing touchdown from a yard out to give the Redhawks’ an insurmountable 44-20 lead.

SIU tacked on a touchdown with five minutes left but it did nothing to affect the outcome.

It was not all a cakewalk for Southeast as they could not get anything going offensively in the first quarter and the Salukis were moving the ball with ease.

However, a goal-line interception by junior defensive back Marcus Lucas with a minute left in the first quarter kept the SIU lead at 7-0. The Salukis next drive then had a 28-yard touchdown pass called back by an illegal formation penalty which led to a Salukis’ punt.

“I’m proud of how we responded,” Matukewicz said. “We came out in the first quarter and it was terrible, but I didn’t see anybody panicking or turning on each other. We got everything worked out and kept getting better.”

Southeast has won the War for the Wheel in back-to-back years following last year’s thrilling 48-44 victory in Carbondale.

Next week, Southeast will travel to Montana to take on the 14th ranked Montana State Bobcats on Sept. 7 at 7 p.m.