Youth-infused Midgets retoolingGet used to this Dickinson High football team because many of them are going to be around for a while.
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
Get used to this Dickinson High football team because many of them are going to be around for a while.
The Midgets return six just starters — and that’s about the bulk of their experience. They have just 17 seniors and juniors, only four of whom started last season. Oh, and 30 sophomores from what head coach Dennis Morris said is an athletic and talented class.
The extreme lack of experience doesn’t bother the Dickinson upperclassmen though.
“Everyone is going to expect us to play like garbage,” senior linebacker Jamie Kuntz said. “We lost a lot of people, but I think we’re going to do good this year.”
It all starts with guys like Kuntz, who will also start at fullback, and tight end/defensive end Tyrell Parker though.
Parker was a second team all-state selection last season at tight end. He was third in the West Region in receiving with about 500 yards and four touchdowns.
“We put a lot of faith in Ty’s hands,” Morris said. “But the one thing we do know is Ty is going to go hard and Ty’s going to go hard the whole game long.”
While Parker has proven he can catch passes all game long, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound senior’s biggest attribute to his team may be at defensive end.
“He’s the heart and soul of our defensive line,” Morris said. “It’s hard to sneak by Ty Parker off the edge of the line. He’s got the fastest hands off the line of any kid I’ve ever seen. He’s so quick that he’s going to be a handful.”
While the Midgets plan to stick with the ground game they established last season, Morris said the dynamic of their offense will be almost entirely different now that the Midgets’ hulking offensive line from last season is gone.
Dickinson lost all five starting linemen, three of whom are now playing at Dickinson State University.
“We lost our big stud linemen that could throw people around,” Morris said. “So the first thing that happens is we lose that power game and have to rely a little bit more on our speed game.”
That’s where sophomores Dylan Skabo and Michael Cherwinski come in. Both played extensive varsity minutes last season — Skabo at running back, receiver and defensive back, Cherwinski mostly at running back — in both starting and back-up roles.
Now the two young veterans will be expected to shoulder a majority of the team’s offensive load and give senior quarterback Luke Hanel, who will start the team’s opener against Dawson County (Mont.) on Friday, some much-needed help in the backfield.
Though Skabo could also see time at quarterback, Morris said Hanel’s development since last season has been one of the team’s most pleasant surprises of fall camp.
“He looks really good,” Morris said. “He’s a great senior leader out there and has been keeping his cool really well and holding the team together.”
The Midgets’ offensive and defensive lines will be filled with newcomers.
Seniors Seth Leno and Thomas McCarty will fill center and guard roles, respectively, while the rest of the offensive line is expected to be sophomore-laden. Blake Vance, Aaron Sayler, Mitchell Mehrer and Jordan Wanner are among the greenhorns vying for spots on both sides of the line.
Hanel, Skabo, Cherwinski and juniors Terin Staudinger and Stephen Wiedmer are expected to shore up the secondary, along with sophomore Jace Dukart.
While Kuntz and third-year starter Vance Volesky take care of the inside linebacker spots, Morris is excited about the dogfights brewing for time at outside linebacker.
“We’re waiting for guys to step up and fill those spots,” Morris said. “We’ve got some great candidates there, but it’s still too early to chose who we’re going to put in that spot.”
On special teams, D.J. Weismann returns at kicker and sophomore Levi Jordheim is the frontrunner for punter. Skabo, Cherwinski and Parker will open the season as Dickinson’s return men.
Because of Dickinson’s inexperience, Morris knows he and his coaching staff can’t expect miracles — especially with the Midgets’ brutal schedule.
Nonetheless, he feels they have the tools to make another run at the playoffs. The Midgets missed out on the West’s No. 4 and final seed in the Class 3A playoffs last season on a head-to-head tiebreaker.
Morris believes Dickinson can compete for that spot again.
“I hate to set a goal that low, but that’s got to be our goal this year,” Morris said. “We have to win the games that we normally are expected to win. We want to be in every game but have to have the realistic expectation of how green we are and that we might have some bumps in the road.”
Dickinson High Midgets
Head coach: Dennis Morris
Last season: 5-4 (4th in West Region, missed playoffs in head-to-head tiebreaker)
Returners: Tyrell Parker, Sr., TE-DE, 6-3, 215, (2nd team all-state, 1st team all-West); Jamie Kuntz, Sr., FB-LB, 5-11, 215; Vance Volesky, Sr., TE-LB, 6-4, 220; Luke Hanel, Sr., QB-S, 6-1, 165; Michael Cherwinski, So., RB-DB, 5-7, 155; Dylan Skabo, So., QB-RB-DB, 6-0, 155.
Newcomers: Blake Vance, So., OL-DE, 6-1, 200; Mitch Mehrer, So., OL-DL, 6-0, 200; Shad Pulisfer, So., 6-4, 185, WR-DB; Jace Dukart, So., WR-DB, 5-11, 160; Levi Jordheim, So., 6-0, 155, RB-LB.
Losses: Nate Moody, WR-S (1st team all-state); Levi Keck, OL-DL (1st team all-state); Justin Dvorak, OL-FB-LB; Austin Hibl, OL-DL; Chad Cianni OL-DL; Nick Lupo, QB; Jess O’Brien, C-LB; Brett Braunagel, WR-RB-DB.
Schedule: Aug. 26–vs. Dawson County (Mont.), 7 p.m.; Sept. 2–at Custer County (Mont.), 7 p.m.; Sept. 9–at Bismarck Century, 6 p.m.; Sept. 16–vs. Jamestown, 7 p.m.; Sept. 23–at Bismarck High, 7 p.m.; Sept. 30–vs. Williston, 5 p.m.; Oct. 7–at Minot High, 6 p.m.; Oct. 14–at Fargo South, 6 p.m.; Oct. 19–vs. Mandan, 7 p.m.