Quarterback: #11 Patrick Heitert
The St. Louis native could have his hands full this weekend considering he’s actually the team’s backup. Starter Patrick DeLaurent has missed the last two games with a foot injury, which is a major blow to the Redhawks offense. During this time, Heitert came on to make it 2-0, but completed 21 of 36 passes without touchdowns and one interception. Even for a freshman, the atmosphere at Washington Grizzly Stadium during the playoffs could prove to be too much.
Running back: No. 6, Geno Hess
With DeLaurent, the state of Southeast Missouri has leaned much more heavily on its older backlog. And he’s delivered. He will enter the competition with great momentum on Saturday after being named FCS National Offensive Player of the Week for his performance against Murray State. In that game, the Peoria, Illinois product rushed for 317 yards with four touchdowns. He is one of the best SEMO defensemen in program history, ranking sixth in all-time yards and second in touchdowns.
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Wide receiver: No. 1, Ryan Flournoy
The 6-foot-2 pass catcher from Hazelcrest, Illinois is in his first season with the Redhawks. He’s a welcome addition, having graduated from Iowa Western Community College and becoming SEMO’s Lead Receiver. He has 823 yards on 50 catches while scoring seven goals. However, without DeLaurent in the lineup, his abilities could be limited. In the last two games, he’s caught just four passes for 29 yards and no touchdowns.
Attacking lineman: No. 56, Zack Gieg
Though he may be short for a center at 6ft 1,287lbs, the Californian has all the necessary tools to make up for it. Originally at Fresno State, Gieg has been a regular starting player since arriving in Cape Girardeau, Missouri in 2021. He started all 10 games this season and anchored FCS’ top red zone offense. This season, they’ve been a perfect 33 of 33 in those situations. Gieg was named to the All-Ohio Valley Conference preseason list.
Linebackers: #32, Bryce Norman
Norman, a sophomore, has become a true star amidst the defense of the state of Southeast Missouri. After a freshman All-American season in 2021, he’s building on his previous numbers for an even better encore performance. He’s registered 100 tackles this year and when he’s not making tackles he’s making his presence felt elsewhere. He has six quarterback rushes and three pass breakups. He was also listed as an All-Ohio Valley Conference preseason player.
Defense Attorney: No. 7, Lawrence Johnson
After missing the team’s last four games of the 2021 season with a shoulder injury, security has come back strong for his final season. From the safety position, Johnson is the team’s second-best tackler at 66 and presents himself as an elite secondary blitz option. He has four sacks and two more quarterback rushes while leading the team with 7.5 tackles for loss. In cover he has six pass breakups. He has played his entire career at SEMO and is now reaping those benefits.
Defenders: No. 55, Nasim Cairo
The Edwardsville, Illinois native is just a true freshman and Southeast Missouri State’s most consistent defender to break into the backfield. Despite only having 20 tackles, Cairo has 4.5 tackles for losses and another 3.5 sacks. He also has four quarterback rushes, second behind Norman. And he’s getting going at the right time. His best game was the team’s most recent, in which he had 1.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks, both career highs in a single game.
Kicker: #49, DC Pippins
If SEMO ever needs just a field goal to win, they’re in good shape with their Springfield, Illinois junior. In his first season as the team’s starting kicker, Pippins was able to show the strength of his leg. He’s 54 yards and has another 50 mark this season. He also has a single-game high of three field goals scored. If his peers are able to competently pull off a two-minute drill, he gives them a solid shot at winning the game.
Lucas Semb is the Griz Football Beat Writer for The Missoulian. Follow him on Twitter @Lucas_Semb or email him at [email protected]