Sunday, September 21, 2008

Samuel made the wrong choice, and he got burned

It can't feel good to be Tony Samuel today.

But why should it? The Southeast football coach faced the decision Saturday whether to start Houston Lillard after the quarterback's arrest five days earlier, his second since July 4.

Samuel chose to put pride over principle, and Lillard's response? He threw three interceptions, got yanked before halftime and was replaced by a freshman against Missouri State. Southeast went on to lose its third game in a row.

Southeast, by way of Samuel, had an opportunity to tell the community and the team that character matters more than winning a game. But Samuel blew it. The signal that beamed out of Houck Stadium on Saturday is that anything goes in Southeast football, because already, it has.

Lillard, 22, was arrested Monday in Cape Girardeau for failure to appear in court to face charges of public urination, for which he was first arrested July 4. Lillard's excuse: He was so focused on football that he forgot his court date.

Such a flimsy excuse doesn't pass muster in the U.S. legal system, and it wouldn't hold up anywhere else where logic outweighs selfish priorities. But at Southeast, that excuse was enough for Samuel.

Sure, Southeast can counter that they handled the matter internally, the standard line when college athletes go wild and the punishment is a slap on the wrist. And sure, supporters can claim that Lillard is an all-around nice guy who just made a mistake.

But nice guys don't merit a free pass when they break the law, and forcing Lillard to run extra laps after practice doesn't count as punishment for betraying his team with two arrests in a little over three months.

Lillard shouldn't have started Saturday. Period.

And for Samuel, a third-year coach still trying to prove he's the right man to rebuild the Southeast football program, his decision Saturday leaves a lot of doubt.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Southeast coach faces a gut check with his QB

Houston Lillard remembers to show up for Southeast football practice. He doesn't remember to show up for a criminal hearing in front of a judge.

Puzzling, sure. But try to overlook Lillard's lack of priorities long enough to ask the more pressing question: What will his coach do about it?

To recap the story that broke on this site Tuesday and then in the local media Wednesday, Southeast's starting quarterback was arrested Monday and charged with skipping a court date Aug. 12. The original charge was public indecency, but now he adds the charge of failing to appear in court, both of which he'll address — provided he remembers the date — in front of a judge Oct. 14.

Lillard says he simply forgot the date, that it was an honest mistake because he was wrapped up in preseason practice. Even for a 22-year-old college student with a world of distractions, it's a flimsy cop-out.

And now as a result of his QB's oversight, third-year coach Tony Samuel, staring at the potential of a 1-3 start if the Redhawks lose Saturday to Missouri State, faces the embarrassing decision of whether to bench Lillard for Saturday's game. He refused to address it in a story published Wednesday, but his other options at quarterback include a trio of obscure names that have seen little to no playing time: junior college transfer Dustin Powell, freshman Bobby Hoffman and freshman Matt Scheible. Of the four, only Lillard has ever started a game at Southeast.

Whoever walks onto the field Saturday and lines up behind center will speak volumes about the character of Samuel and the state of Southeast football.

A start by Powell or even Hoffman or Scheible tells Southeast teammates, fans and students that Samuel puts principle above winning, and that doing the right thing comes before winning a home game.

And a start by Lillard? That sends a message, too: that athletes can pee on a downtown sidewalk, get taken to jail and even forget a court date, because that's the Southeast way.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Faulkner, Parr race toward 1,000 yards

Kory Faulkner and Blake Parr are on a quick course to hit a huge number just three weeks into the high school football season.

Parr has thrown for 813 yards for Kennett, leaving him less than 200 yards away from reaching 1,000 yards. He threw for a career-high 341 yards against Hayti on Friday, and this week his 3-0 Indians host East Prairie.

Faulkner, meanwhile, has thrown for 789 yards for Ste. Genevieve. He threw for 284 yards against Perryville, and this week he leads the Dragons into a home game against Crystal City. The game was moved from Crystal City to Ste. Genevieve by the schools earlier this week.

At least two more area QBs also have triple digits on the horizon: Dexter's Ben Mills has thrown for 661 yards over three games, and Michael Greminger has passed for 608 yards at Valle.

See a full list of the region's top performances from Friday's game in our week-by-week list here, and check here to see a list of Friday's games throughout the 23-county area.

Monday, September 15, 2008

After No. 1 and No. 2 lose, who rises to the top?

What happens when the No. 1 and No. 2 football teams in Southeast Missouri lose on the road? That happened with the top two teams in the region over the weekend when No. 1 Farmingon lost at Helias on Saturday, less than 24 hours after No. 2 Jackson lost at Gateway Tech.

We'll post the latest rankings of all 33 teams in the region later today after getting a little more feedback from folks who have seen both teams. If you have a thought, drop me a note here or at

Also on today, look for photo galleries from a variety of events over the weekend: football games at Festus and Poplar Bluff, along with auto racing at Malden Speedway and a triathlon at Trail of Tears State Park in Cape Girardeau County.

Later today, check back for an updated schedule of this week's top events, plus photos from the Valle-St. Vincent football game and the Kennett-Hayti game and updated results from weekend motorsports events at Malden and Farmington.

On Tuesday, look for a list of the weekend's top performances from all 33 teams in the region.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Southeast Missouri football leaders list is online

A new high school football feature on will list every passer, rusher and receiver with more than 100 yards in any given week among our region's 33 teams — to take a look at the updated list, click here.

We're working on the updated list of area leaders, which will be posted before Week 3 games Friday night. But at the top of two of the lists are seniors from the MAFC and upcoming Class district rivals: Kory Faulkner of Ste. Genevieve leads area passers with 512 yards, and Joey Lewondowski of Fredericktown leads rushers with 438 yards.

And on the subject of Faulkner, his status remains day-to-day this week leading up to Friday's game at Perryville. Faulkner took a hard hit on a scoring drive in the fourth quarter in Friday's loss at Valle; in fact, the hit was so hard that it left a long-lasting imprint of a Valle player's helmet on his chest. He left the game with bruised ribs, and the Dragons lost to Valle for the first time in 10 years.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

SEMO, Tennessee Tech put positive spin on lopsided weekend

Coaches and the media are doing their best to find highlights from the beatdowns that Southeast and Tennessee Tech endured heading into their Thursday matchup at Houck Stadium.

Both teams will have had just five days to let the bruises heal after a pair of losses Saturday to FBS teams: Southeast lost 52-3 to Missouri, and Tech lost 51-10 to Louisville.

At Tech, coach Watson Brown's Golden Eagles walked away with a fat check and a bruised ego, but Brown found the bright side: "I like the positive of doing this and letting them see what they have to do to get better. I think playing someone better than you always brings that out. When you play somebody who you're better than, you don't always find that out until it's too late."

And SEMO, coach Tony Samuel found enthuasiasm in an offense that was held to three points: "I thought offensively we held our own against them," he said. "You could see we executed better."

Even Southeast Missouri's print media chimed in with fervor under headlines that included "SEMO didn't look all that bad at Mizzou."

One person who might not agree: Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel, who benched most of his team's starters for good shortly before halftime.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

A look at area football leaders after Week 1

Five questions heading into Week 2 of the high school football season:

1. Was Jackson's one-point loss Friday a fluke? Its opponent, Riverview Gardens, was a woeful 1-9 last season and not expected to do much this year either, but the hosts blistered Jackson on offense behind quarterback Joe Williams (355 passing yards, 128 rushing yards). Jackson, ranked No. 4 in Southeast Missouri, goes back to St. Louis this week to face Parkway South.

2. Will Sikeston and Charleston play a game for the ages to celebrate their 100th year of football? The 100th game in the series came more than 20 years ago, but because the teams played twice a year early in the series, Friday's rivalry marks 100 calendar years of competition. Both teams are 0-1 after losses last week.

3. Will Kory Faulkner and Michael Greminger completely light up the scoreboard with big passing games Friday? The Ste. Genevieve and Valle quarterbacks combined for more than 600 yards with mixed results last week (Ste. Genevieve defeated Dexter, but Valle lost to Herculaneum). The Dragons have won the past 10 games in the series.

4. Will anybody on the Thayer or Mountain Grove sidelines have to be reminded their teams are state-ranked heading into Friday's game? Thayer is No. 2 in Class 2, and Mountain Grove is No. 4 in Class 1. The winner gets a huge shot of confidence heading into the final eight weeks of the regular season.

5. Is Poplar Bluff really a contender? The Mules looked good against New Madrid County Central, but it's a whole new challenge Friday at Union, the state's No. 4-ranked Class 4 team. Poplar Bluff QB Todd Bullington knows the challenge that awaits him — Union sacked Summit's quarterback seven times and intercepted him twice Friday.

• After one week of games, three names have risen to the top of offensive charts — Faulkner at Ste. Genevieve, Brandon Bourbon at Potosi, and Jarvis Finley at Kennett. The leaders in passing, rushing and receiving, based on statistics reported so far:


Kory Faulkner, Ste. Genevieve — 31-40, 415 yards
Ben Mills, Dexter — 17-28, 275 yards
Blake Parr, Kennett — 13-31, 274 yards
Michael Greminger, Valle — 24-40, 230 yards
Charlie Bohannon, Sikeston, 4-6, 103 yards


Brandon Bourbon, Potosi — 21-252
Tony Martin, Park Hills Central — 26-243
Malcolm Smith, Herculaneum — 30-238
Joey Lewondowski, Fredericktown — 27-183
Josh Huckabee, Thayer — 20-171


Jarvis Finley, Kennett — 7-179
Josh Meyer, Ste. Genevieve — 10-131
Dustin Noll, Ste. Genevieve — 10-106
Cody Schmelzle, Ste. Genevieve — 4-104
Seth McBride, Dexter — 5-86

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Unfortunately, Mizzou looks healthy for SEMO matchup

The good news for Missouri is bad news for Southeast: Jeremy Maclin looks healthy and might play Saturday against SEMO.

Maclin is MU's All-American who set an NCAA freshman record for all-purpose yards last season. He went down in the fourth quarter of Missouri's 52-42 win Saturday over Illinois, and early indications were that he broke his left ankle.

"I want to play," Maclin said in a published story today. "I think I’ll be ready to play at 100 per­cent, if not really close."

An MRI exam showed a strained tendon, and coach Gary Pinkel said Maclin was probable for this week's 6 p.m. home game. Maclin is likely to practice today.

Maclin's return to the lineup adds another hurdle for Southeast, which last week had its own mettle tested in overtime against Division II Southwest Baptist.

Southeast has played at least one Division I program each year since 2000 and has a 1-11 record to show for it (its one win in that stretch was in 2002 over Middle Tennessee State, itself a relative new kid on the Division I block).

• A final thought: Does it seem odd that Southeast players were surprisingly celebratory after rallying to beat long-suffering Southwest Baptist, while Missouri players, by contrast, were almost morose after defeating Top 25 program Illinois?

• Another local line: William Moore of Hayti and MU teammate Carl Gettis each led the team with 12 tackles Saturday. Moore sprained his foot in Saturday's game, but he's expected to play in the SEMO game.

• On the high school level, three galleries are up from Friday's high school football, with at least another one likely to be posted by the end of today. Click here to see Diane Wilson's images from Ste. Genevieve vs. Dexter; click here for Andrew Amsden's photos from the Farmington vs. North County game; and click here to see photos by Keith Hente from the Scott City vs. Malden game.

The Southeast Missouri football poll is also up and features every team in the region ranked No. 1 to 33. Click here for this week's version.

• And finally, thanks to everybody who helped mark another small achievement Monday — our site turned 2 years old. Thanks to everybody who has played a role in helping SemoSportsWeb grow.