SEMO Football Notes: Next stop for these Redhawks? The school's Hall of Fame

Southeast Missouri State senior wide receiver Kristian Wilkerson (6) evades defenders against Eastern Kentucky last season at Houck Stadium.
Tyler Graef ~ Southeast Missourian

Three significant pieces for the Southeast Missouri State football program gathered Saturday for the postgame press conference in wake of the Redhawks’ 24-6 loss to Illinois State in the opening round of the FCS Playoffs.

And in all likelihood, the next time that Redhawk student-athletes Zach Hall and Kristian Wilkerson, as well as coach Tom Matukewicz, gather together to represent the program will be as they are inducted into the university’s Athletic Hall of Fame.

“If I see that one day,” Wilkerson said, “it will make me reflect on all of the pain that we put in.”

The only way that Wilkerson and Hall won’t be honored to that degree is if the Hall of Fame shuts down.

Wilkerson closed out his career by shattering the program records for career yardage as a wide receiver (3,540 yards) and career receptions (214).

He is three yards shy of totaling 1,000 more yards than any Southeast receiver in the former statistical category and also made 38 more receptions than anyone else in program history.

“A lot of people that came through here taught me a lot,” Wilkerson said. “(The former receivers) taught me a lot and I took everything from them.”

Wilkerson didn’t make a scoring catch in his final game, but he did so 33 times in his career, which also set a new career mark for the Redhawk receivers.

“(Being in the Hall of Fame) would put every one in one box that helped me to get to that point,” Wilkerson said.

As for Hall, his accolades match his statistics, both of which ensure his immortality in Redhawk lore.

Hall set a Southeast season mark with 168 tackles as a junior in 2018 and earned the Buck Buchanan Award for the nation’s top defensive player. He just missed becoming the program’s all-time leader in tackles, as the inside linebacker closed his career with 406 total stops. That is 18 shy of current Cape Girardeau resident Bobby Haggerty’s 424.

“Just work hard,” Hall said of his advice to the next generation. “Work until you can’t work anymore.”

In the case of Matukewicz, his case for enshrinement is still unfolding. However, he has guided the Redhawks to consecutive winning seasons (never achieved at the NCAA Division I level), consecutive postseason berths (never achieved), an Ohio Valley Conference championship (achieved just once prior to his arrival), and with seven more victories he will be the most successful coach in program history at the Division I level.

Hall spoke on the program’s achievements over the past four seasons and the influence that his coach had.

“The culture,” Hall said. “Forget the OVC championship. Forget everything else. The culture that ‘Coach Tuke’ wanted and we implemented from the start.

“It’s going to be a good program for the future.”

‘Santa’ delivers toughness

Though he was only in Cape Girardeau for 24 months, quarterback Daniel Santacaterina deserves mention when discussing the all-time great Redhawks at his position.

He ranks atop the career touchdown mark (46) and is third in career passing yards (5,291). But Matukewicz said the numbers don’t tell Santacaterina’s entire story.

“There is no one tougher than ‘Santa,’” Matukewicz said.

That was never more evident than Saturday.

Santacaterina had an injured foot and shoulder, and though he was cleared to play, he could barely run throughout the week leading up to the game.

Matukewicz didn’t start Santacaterina, but he finished with him.

“He wanted to play,” Matukewicz said. “He’s a competitor. I had to make that call and I made it based on the guy (back-up Joe Pyle) who was healthy.”

Santacaterina was limited in his mobility and took several punishing hits during the course of the game, most notably in the closing minutes when he was blind-sided on an Illinois State sack and pounded into the turf.

“We were just doing what we could to get back into the game,” Matukewicz said of his inserting Santacaterina into the game in the second half.

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