DSU opens season with Rocky Mountain
What happened to the Dickinson State football team the past two seasons is a thing of the past.
Former Frontier Conference foe and No. 9-ranked Rocky Mountain College (Mont.) travels to Dickinson to kick off the football season at 1 p.m. today at the Biesiot Activities Center.
The Blue Hawks are a new team with a new roster, coaching staff and mentality, and excited to take the field and get some revenge against Rocky.
“We are excited to finally get a chance to hit somebody,” senior defensive tackle Brock Wigert said. “It’s a great opportunity to make a statement under a new coach, and hopefully we can go out and get it done.”
DSU hasn’t had much luck keeping up with the Bears in the past. The past four times the teams have met, Rocky averaged 44 points a game while the Blue Hawks could only muster around 15 points.
DSU’s offense features some familiar faces and some newcomers who will see the field today.
Seniors JT Keith and Josh Borm, and sophomore Dalton Reid return and will be the Blue Hawks’ go-to receivers. Last season, Keith had 37 receptions for 656 yards and five touchdowns.
True freshman Dylan Skabo and University of Mary transfer Seth Ewoniuk, who is from Belfield, will also be seeing a lot of time on the field either as receivers or taking punt returns.
“I’m ready to go — never been ready for a football game like this in my life,” Ewoniuk said, who redshirted last season. “First college game for me, I’m pumped.”
DSU also returns both of its running backs, seniors Jesse Carney and Myren Moore, who head coach Pete Stanton has seen strong performances from during preseason practices.
“We feel (they’re) two quality backs, and having two of them back there and having some diversity there has really helped us,” said Stanton, who enters his first year as head coach.
The Blue Hawks return starting sophomore quarterback Kaler Ray and junior Thad Lane, who saw a good amount of time on the field as well. DSU’s starting quarterback will likely be a game-time decision between Ray, Lane and sophomore QB Brian Cronnelly.
Ray has been nursing a tweaked hamstring but has been actively participating in practice.
While DSU’s offense is going to have to try and get through Rocky’s solid defense — the Bears return both of their star safeties, Cory Bummer and Kyle Mai — the Blue Hawks’ defense will have their hand full as well.
Quarterback Bryce Baker returns for his senior season and comes off a standout year.
The 6-foot-3 gunslinger ranked third in the NAIA in passing yards per game (324.4) and total yards passing (3,893). He was also fourth in pass efficiency (163.3) and total offense (4,004), and fifth in offensive yards per game (333.7).
“Baker is an incredible player and athlete, and I think the one thing with him that stands out is how well he runs,” Stanton said. “He’s underrated running the ball. He’s a great runner. They don’t do it a lot with him but when they do it he’s effective. What I think he does so well too is he gets rid of the ball so quickly.”
Junior wide receiver Andre McCulloch also returns for Rocky. He ranked in the top five in receiving yards per game, total yards and receptions.
Wigert, who has played in each of those four games, said what the Blue Hawks see in Rocky is what they’re going to get and prepping for their offense isn’t any different. Wigert said DSU’s defense must contain the Bears’ offense if it want to be competitive for all four quarters.
“One of the things we talked a lot about is taking control of the line of scrimmage,” Wigert said. “They have a young offensive line and we got a defensive line that’s got some guys that can play, some older guys. … (Rocky’s) going to be rolling, they’re going to make some big plays, but we got to play a little bend-not-break defense.”