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Press Photo by Meaghan MacDonald Dickinson State’s Bryce Herman, middle runs the ball during spring practice on Friday at the Biesiot Activities Center. The Blue Hawks have cancelled its spring game on Sunday due to inclement weather. DSU ran around 50 plays during a scrimmage on Friday.

Beginning of change: Dickinson State concludes spring football with high optimism

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Spring normally is a season of change. Well, when you’re not buried under 18 inches of snow.

But when the weather actually cooperates, flowers start to bloom, the temperatures rise and new sports get underway.

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This spring marked the official beginning of change for the Dickinson State football team. The Blue Hawks just finished up spring ball and experienced quite a bit of it, between new offensive plays and schemes, new players and, most notably, a new head coach.

Longtime assistant coach Pete Stanton took the helm after Hank Biesiot, the head coach of 38 seasons, resigned in November and dove right in to put together his idea of a winning program.

Stanton has reiterated the theme of the new, and hopefully improved, DSU football team is competition and accountability. Since the beginning, it was known all players, returning or new, must leave their egos at the door and that no position is safe.

“We want to create as much competition as we can and to see how some of the guys handle the competition, and handle the adversity that’s thrown at them,” Stanton said in an interview Tuesday.

Having a new coach can always be a tough situation for returning players, but the Blue Hawks didn’t really have much of a change.

“He fell right into it for us,” junior defensive lineman Sam Herauf said at Wednesday’s practice. “He’s always been the leader for the defense, so for us it wasn’t anything different. He’s been doing a real good job with keeping practice intense and just kind of getting us as a team. We had a bunch of transfers and he did a really good job with.”

The intensity and competition is up. Check. So what are some key aspects that need to be improved for the upcoming season?

On the defensive side of the ball, tackle better and spend less time on the field.

Offensively, it’s the complete opposite. The Blue Hawks spent very little time on the field last season and struggled to make first downs. The big key for offense is to just keep the chains moving and make some plays.

There have been some personnel changes on the offensive side of the ball with the promotion of Jace Schillinger to offensive coordinator. Overall, there haven’t been too many drastic changes to the offense which is helpful for the veterans. But the most notable change is the use of the pistol formation.

The formation is different for all areas of the ball — centers, running backs and quarterbacks — but Schillinger said it could benefit two of the Blue Hawks’ quarterbacks, Kaler Ray and Brian Cronnelly.

“One thing about it is trying to utilize the players to the best they can I think and these two quarterbacks have a pretty good knack of being able to run,” Schillinger said after Friday’s scrimmage. “Hopefully we can expand ourselves a little bit as far as being able to not only run with the running backs but also get a little bit of running game with the quarterbacks and so forth. Doing the pistol gives them a head start as far as the run game”

One of the more concerning factors is the lack of depth at the offensive and defensive line positions. Stanton recruited a number of players to fill in the positions to arrive for the fall, but for spring ball there were only five or six players on each line.

The drastically low numbers hopefully can be remedied by some of the new kids coming in, but until they’re tested and proven, the team will have to be extremely careful and cross their fingers for no injuries.

With the weather in the mid-60s all week, Mother Nature decided to throw a curve ball and forced the football team to cancel its spring game originally set for Sunday. Instead, the team quickly mustered up a 50-play scrimmage on Friday to show off what they learned.

Like most spring games, both sides of the ball looked a little rusty. There were missed tackles, dropped balls and some assignment errors, but there were some shining moments of proper execution.

When the receivers and quarterbacks were able to connect, most of the receivers ran for extra yardage. On one play, Ray threw about a 15-yard pass to receiver Dalton Reid, who was open in the end zone.

Coming off a 1-11 season, spring ball was the perfect example of change and hope for DSU. Between practices, weightlifting and Friday’s scrimmage, the team’s enthusiasm and effort never waned and looked strong.

With taped up ankles, wrists and fingers, the Blue Hawks went at it as if this game had a true meaning to it, which was an encouraging sign. As the school year begins to come to an end, the Blue Hawks are just warming up and their football future is looking up.

“We’re excited where we’re at,” Stanton said. “We know we have a long ways to go but it was fun to play some football today on a beautiful day.”

MacDonald is the sports reporter for the Dickinson Press. Email her at mmacdonald@thedickinsonpress.com or tweet her @MegtotheMac.

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Meaghan MacDonald
Meaghan is the sports reporter for the Dickinson Press, focusing primarily on Dickinson State athletics and rodeo. After graduating from James Madison University (Va.) in May 2013, she moved from New Jersey to North Dakota to start pursuing her career in sports journalism. 
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