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SEMO football starts spring season after two-year hiatus
With their past two spring seasons canceled due to COVID-19, SEMO football successfully began their spring ball season with 15 official practices that started March 24.
The Redhawks have a spring roster with a total of 82 players, with 14 mid-year transfers. The team brought back 17 returners with eight on offense, six on defense and three on special teams.
A few of these returners include 2021 First-Team All-Ohio Valley Conference running back Geno Hess, the team’s leading tackler in freshman Bryce Norman, and a member of the 2021 OVC All-Newcomer Team, quarterback CJ Ogbonna.
“I feel like we have a lot of really good players coming back,” head coach Tom Matukewicz said. “It’s obvious they’re hungry and not satisfied.”
Prior to official spring practice beginning last week, Matukewicz and his team had an offseason where getting bigger, stronger and faster was the focus.
“We had missed a lot of weight training because of Covid and playing in the spring,” Matukewicz said. “Football’s all about strength, so they had an eight-week session, and they did a really nice job.”
Now that spring ball is here, the Redhawks are putting their offseason work to use while focusing on improving a few major aspects.
“The biggest [improvement] is just being able to do more,” senior running back Geno Hess said. “We ran the ball a lot last year, and I think we’ll be able to pass the ball a lot more this year.”
In the 2021 campaign, the Redhawks averaged 165.5 passing yards per game, finishing fifth in the conference in pass offense. On the offensive side, SEMO finished second in the OVC in rushing offense, averaging 195.1 yards per game.
“We got to get more physical as a team,” freshman inside linebacker Bryce Norman said. “We also have to be more disciplined. There were some times in big moments where we weren’t disciplined and they broke big plays on us, and that hurt us in the long run.”
Norman led the Redhawks’ defense in tackles in 2021. Norman finished with 66 total tackles, with 32 of those being solo. He also led the entire conference in forced fumbles, with three total.
The Redhawks finished last in the OVC in total defense, allowing 43 total touchdowns and 4,736 total yards.
“On defense, we started poorly, but finished well,” Matukewicz said. “We want to continue where we left off at the end of the year defensively.”
The SEMO football team has spring practice every Tuesday and Thursday from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to Noon. They practice at Rosengarten Athletic Complex, and each practice is open to the public. The Redhawks’ spring game is scheduled for April 22.