Southeast Missouri State University student publication

A look at the upcoming Redhawk Football season, players to watch, important matchups

Wednesday, August 30, 2023
Sophomore quarterback Patrick Heitert (11, black) high-fives junior defensive back Joedrick Lewis (2, white) during a break.
Photo by Chandler Davis

The Redhawks have been placed at No. 12 in the nation and are in search of another conference title with the start of this season.

Last season, head coach Tom Matukewicz and his squad finished 9-3 and 5-0 in conference. Their season ended after a loss in the first round of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoffs. But the odds are high in favor of SEMO winning another conference championship this fall.

The Redhawks have already earned a No. 12 spot on the 2023 Stats Perform FCS Preseason Top-25 poll and No. 9 in the Athlon Sports Preseason Top 25.

“I’m looking forward to playing with my brothers,” senior receiver Ryan Flournoy said. “Our goal is to win a national championship.”

Flournoy is the top returner from the receiving core. He finished last season with 984 yards on 61 receptions, with seven touchdowns.

Fourteen starters from the 2022 championship team will be returning for this season: six players on offense and eight players on defense.

Ten Redhawks players recently earned a spot on the Big South-OVC Football Association Preseason Watch List. Senior receiver Ryan Flournoy, senior center Zack Gieg, senior running back Geno Hess, senior defensive back Lawrence Johnson, and junior linebacker Bryce Norman were also named to the 2023 Phil Steele FCS Preseason All-America team.

Senior defensive back Ty Leonard said Redhawk fans should expect to see a show each game day whether it’s at Houck Stadium or away.

“They’re going to come out [to the games] and see a lot of big plays from offense and defense,” Leonard said.

Leonard was the fourth-leading tackler from last year’s team. He finished the 2022 season with 50 tackles in 11 starts.

The Redhawks will open up their season against Kansas State University on Sept. 2 with kickoff at 6 p.m. when they travel to Manhattan, Kansas.

“I’m just excited to see these guys play,” Coach Matukewicz said. “We’ve got five preseason All-Americans, but you don’t win with All-Americans. You win with everybody else, so this should be good to just start the season and see where we’re at.”

The first home game in the newly renovated Houck Stadium is set for Sept. 9 as they battle Lindenwood University with kickoff also at 6 p.m.


Geno Hess: Hess registered 1,691 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns last season, earning him a First Team all OVC selection, and the 2022-23 OVC offensive player of the year. He is only 1,037 yards away from the OVC all time rushing leader Markus Thomas, and will be looking to achieve that record this year.

Cole Ruble: Ruble is a freshman from Seckman high school in Imperial Missouri, where he rushed for 2,524 yards and 46 touchdowns his senior year. Both Coaches and teammates have praised Ruble’s electric offense and elite mentality.

Paxten DeLaurent: DeLaurent last season completed 210 passes for 2,684 yards and 19 touchdowns, ranking second in OVC passing yards per game, and earning him a spot on the OVC all-newcomer team. The QB1 will look to replicate this success and add even more production and awards to his resume.

Amare Townsend: Townsend is a freshman from DuPont Manual high school in Louisville, Kentucky, who registered 56 tackles, 35 solo stops, and two interceptions his senior year. Coaches have said he has exceeded most of his peers in the aspect of his high level football IQ and communication in the defensive back position.


Southern Illinois University:

A first game to look out for is Week 3 against Southern Illinois University. Though on paper SIU may not look like one of SEMO’s toughest opponents after coming off of a 5-6 season last year, they were still able to give the Redhawks a hard fought battle in last year’s matchup, where the Redhawks toughed out a 34-31 victory over SIU.

Eastern Kentucky:

The next game to mark on your calendars takes place the very next week against Eastern Kentucky. Although EKU didn’t crack the Top 25 preseason coaches poll like SEMO has, they are still coming off of a very similar season to what SEMO produced. EKU made a FCS playoff appearance and exit in the first round of last year’s playoffs while also beating SEMO in a tightly contested Week 8 matchup resulting in a score of 28-23.


Lastly, the Redhawks have a highly anticipated matchup against OVC rival UT-Martin on November 11th. Last year both SEMO and UT-Martin were named co-champions of the OVC due to both teams not playing each other in the regular season while also finishing with the same record. The deciding factor as to who would go to the FCS playoffs was determined by a coin flip, which SEMO won. UT Martin will be coming into this game with something to prove as the Redhawks try to leave no doubts as to who is truly the best in the OVC.