Snowy Senior Day ends in a loss for the Panthers


Ashanti Thomas

Quarterback Dom Shoffner (0), attempts to run the ball and is tackled by Southeast Missouri’s defensive lineman, Nasim Cairo (55) at their game Saturday afternoon. The Panthers lost to the Redhawks 31-7 on the O’Brien Field.

Autumn Schulz, Sports Editor

It was a cold and snowy day at O’Brien Field for Senior Day, but No. 15 Southeast Missouri’s offense was red hot.

The Redhawks finished the game with 460 yards of total offense compared to the Panthers’ 100 yards, sealing the 31-7 for the Redhawks.

320 of those yards were on the ground. Running back Geno Hess had 198 rushing yards on 30 attempts with three touchdowns. Patrick Heitert took over for Cj Ogbonna in the second quarter, throwing for 140 yards.

With Hess and Heitert and their individual performances, the Redhawks were able to score 31 unanswered points.

With the loss, the Panthers are now 2-8 overall and 1-3 in the OVC.

Coach Chris Wilkerson said that the Panthers could not make plays when they mattered most.

“The story of the game is obviously we had a couple of chances to make some plays in 50/50 situations where we threw some balls down the field,” Wilkerson said. “They were contested, but their guy batted it away, and we didn’t come down with the football. Our inability to convert on third down on a couple of critical situations.”

Linebacker Colin Bohanek (45), and defensive back Mark Aitken (2), tackles a Southeast Missouri player during their game Saturday afternoon. The Panthers lost to the Redhawks 31-7 on the O’Brien Field. (Ashanti Thomas)

In the first quarter, the Panthers made a play that they came prepared for, according to Jay Vallie.

Cam Thompson was able to block the punt by SEMO punter Zach Haynes, allowing Stone Galloway to attempt a 51-yard field goal. Galloway missed his first kick this season, ending his streak of 14 consecutive made field goals.

“It was something that we were preparing for all week,” Vallie said. “We heard it multiple times that they’re susceptible of being blocked. We had a great plan for it. I kind of expected it.”

Vallie was one of nine seniors that were honored before the game. Ameer Agel, Elijah Benoit, Bryce Dewberry, Grant Edwards, Isaiah Hill, Cameron Leach, Michael McNicholas, and Markenzy Pierre were also honored.

Jordan Vincent, who had eight tackles against the Redhawks, said that the seniors were there to guide him as a freshman.

“The seniors brought good leadership to the program,” Vincent said. “I feel like, being this my third year here, those guys coming in, like we’re good mentors as a freshman and continued on through the three years that I’ve been here.”

The Panthers’ only touchdown of the game came in the second quarter after Zay Gentry was able to recover a muffled punt. This gave the Panthers good field position so running back Jaelin Benefield was able to take the ball in on a 4-yard run.

The Panthers played three quarterbacks against the Redhawks. Starting quarterback, Dom Shoffner, was taken out after halftime and freshman quarterback Kevin Conway took over. Justin Kowalak, a freshman, also saw playing time in the second half.

Together, the quarterbacks threw for 21 yards on 19 attempts and two interceptions.

Vallie said that the Panthers’ offensive struggles are also due to injuries.

“I gotta give credit to them,” Vallie said. “They’re a very good team. You know, we’ve been battling injuries all year long, a lot of new guys, a couple of guys where I think this is their first time playing.”

The Panthers will travel to Martin, Tennessee for their last game of the season on Saturday at 2 p.m. The Skyhawks are tied for first place in the OVC with the Redhawks.

Vallie said that the fact that he played his last home game as a Panther has not set in yet.

“You know, I think in the next coming days when I start to clean out my locker and you know, get ready for what’s next, then I’ll be like ‘holy crap,’ it’s coming. But, right now, it just hasn’t come yet.”

Autumn Schulz can be reached at 681-2812 or [email protected]