Familiar foes set to do battle in War for the Wheel game

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KBSI) – The two head football coaches who will be on the sidelines in Saturday’s War for the Wheel game have more in common than being coaches for rival schools.

Southern Illinois Head Coach Nick Hill was a quarterback for the Salukis in the 2000s when Southeast Missouri State University’s Tom Matukewicz was an assistant under Jerry Kill. 

“There’s really not a guy in the profession I have more respect for than Coach Tuke,” Hill said. “I like him as a person. If we weren’t in this profession, we’d probably hang out a lot more.” 

“I hate that we’re rivals, so we aren’t able to hang out much, but there’s just a tremendous amount of appreciation for him as a player and coach,” Matukewicz said. “I love the guy, and it’ll be good to shake his hand. I hope he wins every game but one.” 

Hill and Matukewicz have faced each other six times. Hill’s Salukis own a 4-2 advantage over the Redhawks in those six meetings.

Matukewicz said controlling the emotions of a rivalry game such as this one can be a challenge, but not one the Redhawks can’t overcome.

“When emotion is high, clarity is low,” he said. “You have to make sure you’re in a mode that is calm and you have great clarity. It doesn’t mean you can’t be intense, but you can’t be where you’re highjacked by your emotions.” 

Redhawks quarterback Paxton DeLaurent, who will be making his first start in this rivalry and second overall at SEMO, said the game may be decided on want-to.

“It’s going to be rocking. If you can’t get up for this, then you probably shouldn’t play college football,” he said. “I think we’re all going to be amped up and there’s going to be lots of energy. You have to execute the game plan, but sometimes it just comes down to who can out-physical the other team, who can work harder and win the work-hard stats, so it might come down to who wants to play harder and who wants it more.” 

Kickoff is set for Saturday at 6 p.m. at Saluki Stadium in Carbondale.

Categories: News, Sports