Hawks shouldn’t dwell on defeatUff-da. That sure was a rough end to a decent season for the Dickinson State football team.
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
Uff-da. That sure was a rough end to a decent season for the Dickinson State football team.
A 59-7 loss to the second-ranked team in the NAIA isn’t exactly the kind of finish you want to see out of a group that has done nothing but overachieve for the better part of the past two seasons. And it’s sure not the kind of exit four-year impact players Mike Keyser, Blaine Berg, Clint Grosz and Jordan O’Donnell deserved.
But the Carroll College game is over now. The season is over now. And the returning Blue Hawks shouldn’t dwell on it.
Why? Because they have enough talent returning they should be able to make a run at another conference championship. But, that’ll only be the case if the guys coming back can step into bigger roles with efficiency and the coaching staff can fill a couple major holes in the offense.
The offense loses five starters — four of them at skill positions — and the defense loses three all-Dakota Athletic Conference starters.
Sounds like a lot. Especially on offense. And, really, it is.
The Blue Hawks will need to find replacement starters at tailback and both receiver positions.
But it doesn’t hurt that for the first time since 2005, the team will bring back its starting quarterback.
DSU head coach Hank Biesiot has said in the past that he believes a lack of consistency at quarterback is a big reason why DSU has struggled at the beginning of the past four seasons.
Cody Holland could change that, even though he will need some help, otherwise they’re going to have a similar problem at other skill positions.
Receiver shouldn’t be much of an issue. DSU returns receivers Max Pearson and Tanner Leak, tight end Derek Pauley and adds touted redshirt Scott Bially, a Canadian recruit who sat out this season to rehabilitate a knee he injured over the summer, could ensure some early consistency at that position.
But having good receivers back in the fold doesn’t mean much if the team insists on keeping its offensive mindset geared around running the ball. Unless that changes, the biggest hurdle coming into next season is fairly obvious.
There are a few guys coming back at the tailback spot, but none have had consistent success because none have seen regular action.
Jeremy Herr will be a senior, Tyler Grosz will be a junior, Rashad Williams and Presley Straub will be sophomores, and there are a couple redshirts, including freshman Brennan Haughian from Miles City, Mont., who have a chance to make impacts.
Are any of those guys game-breakers or load-carriers? We could wait and see, but the numbers from this season really don’t lie. While others aside from James Macey and Zach Hepperle got carries, next year’s returners combined for just 129 yards on 55 carries this season.
Not exactly awe inspiring, is it?
Interestingly enough, the Blue Hawks haven’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since 2005. Larry Aldridge did it in 2005, Jace Schillinger did it in 2003 and 2004.
Over the years, DSU didn’t always need a 1,000-yard back to have success. That’s because when it didn’t have one guy carrying the load, it had two or three.
So, with some decent talent returning at tailback, do the Blue Hawks look to them or do they turn to another junior college transfer in the vein of Macey, who despite a few knocks on his consistency, was stable and did a decent job shouldering the load this season. The latter isn’t a bad option if they can find the right person for the system.
If the team can find a running back or two to carry the load and help open up the field for Holland to work with his receivers, then things could start out well for the Blue Hawks, who haven’t won a season opener since 2005 and have a 6-12 record in the months of August and September the past four seasons.
Next year’s nonconference opponents are familiar. DSU is currently scheduled to host Rocky Mountain College and Concordia College its first two weeks of the season.
Wins over Rocky and Concordia could do wonders in giving DSU a head start over its DAC competition, and if the Blue Hawks can win the conference for a third straight season, those early season wins could help them avoid Carroll in the opening round of the playoffs.
Avoiding Carroll could be a top priority after Saturday’s loss.
But, with an experienced defense and quarterback, the home-field advantage of the Badlands Activities Center (the real stadium this time, not a field with fans on the grassy berm) and a ton of talent on the horizon, things aren’t looking too bad for the Blue Hawks.
If the coaching staff can figure something out at tailback and if the team can — start crossing your fingers now — stay somewhat healthy, then next season could be a good one.
You may be asking, what if that doesn’t happen?
Well then, prepare for another uff-da.
Monke is the Sports Editor of The Dickinson Press and covers DSU athletics. E-mail him at email@example.com and read his blog at www.areavoices.com/monke.