CARBONDALE (WSIL) -- The War for the Wheel spins back into play.
SIU Football will host SEMO Friday October 23.
On Monday afternoon, SIU Head Football Coach Nick Hill met with the local media in a virtual press conference. Later Monday evening, I spoke with SEMO Head Football Coach Tom Matukewicz through Zoom.
Both Coaches are excited to make this game happen.
"Our seniors are excited, they have been through a lot," Hill said. "Games canceled, season canceled, votes, polls and doing different things so I think they are in a good place. They understand the thing they really love to do, especially as a senior, your days of playing football are always numbered no matter how old you are especially when you get to be a senior for a unique opportunity to play the game you love, I think they are excited."
"Get ready now. Going places. Doing things. Going places. Doing things," was the exchange of chants between Matukewicz and his football team in the locker room following their 44-26 win over SIU in Cape Girardeau in 2019.
"To be able to tell the team to not only getting to play but play for a trophy and play a rival, it makes a lot of sense" Matukewicz said. "They are super happy, they got to tell their family too. I sent a video to their family so guys are excited so now our focus is on that preparation."
The game was originally slated for September 19th. But was canceled due to health concerns from the pandemic. So what changed from now to then to make this game happen?
"The NCAA granted everybody the opportunity to have fall practice so starting today, just got off the Missouri Valley call and every team in our league is starting practice this week," Hill said. "Coach Tuke and I talked and if we were going to have practice and have intrasquad scrimmages and do those things, we might as well play each other."
"Ultimately, several of the NCAA guidelines and rules changed and one is the season doesn't count so guys don't have to worry about burning a year of eligibility," Matukewicz said.
"I think when we are at football, our players are at the safest and that's where it's at and within our testing protocols they reflect that," Hill said. "I think our guys are more focused."
"A lot of the testing that's improved, now that rapid testing within fifteen minutes you can get a test and things are progressing and felt like it made sense," Matukewicz said.
The short drive to Carbondale will allow SEMO to drive up and back to Cape Girardea on the same night. That played a big role in making this game happen too.
"Travel concerns and hotels and all the other things that are concerns are not for us so we can go get in our own vehicles and be like in high school and show up and drive your own car and play SIU and that definitely put us at ease."
And the coaches decided Friday, October 23rd at 6 PM was the perfect night to play.
"Getting your team ready to play a physical football game and you need about that much time and that will give us the amount of practices we felt like would be good for both side and that week just made sense," Hill said. "And Friday night just gets me excited playing on Friday night, Friday night lights. There's not high school football going on in the state of Illinois right now and I feel for those kids. Back in my hometown there's going to be a lot of excitement in DuQuoin and the small towns around southern Illinois that will get excited for a game and hopefully we can get a, create safely, the safest environment possible for a Friday night football game."
Both teams are ranked. SIU comes it at number 24, and SEMO is ranked 25th in the country. The games count and with their only being 16 teams involved in the postseason, this game has even greater value.