Press No. 5 Sports Story of 2011: DSU football team's inexperience, overall struggles kept Biesiot from wins recordThe Dickinson State football season began with hope of continued success. It ended the thought of, “There’s always next year. Well, maybe.”
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
Editor’s Note: The Dickinson Press’ Top 10 sports stories of 2011 countdown continues through Dec. 31. Each story in the countdown will be presented as a column with the reporter’s take on why the story was impactful this year.
The Dickinson State football season began with hope of continued success.
It ended the thought of, “There’s always next year. Well, maybe.”
During a fall in which the Blue Hawks had the opportunity to set their coach apart from his peers, not to mention leave the Dakota Athletic Conference in dominant fashion, they instead walked off the field with their third losing season in the past 35 years.
For those reasons, the DSU football team is The Dickinson Press’ No. 5 sports story of 2011.
The young, inexperienced and often injury-deprived Blue Hawks finished with a 4-6 record and could only move head coach Hank Biesiot two victories away from the NAIA all-time wins record that seemed entirely attainable coming into the season.
“Every year is different, which is part of the fun of it,” Biesiot said in the Blue Hawks’ season preview article that appeared in The Press’ annual issue of Kickoff on Aug. 24.
The start of the season was no fun at all for the Blue Hawks.
They opened the year with three straight losses — only the second time that has happened in Biesiot’s career — including a stunning 28-26 loss to Valley City State on a last-second touchdown pass on Sept. 10, a defeat Biesiot afterward called one of the toughest to endure in his career.
That game seemed to not only cement the Blue Hawks’ fortunes, it set VCSU off on a path to nine consecutive wins, the final DAC title and a spot in the NAIA playoffs.
And let’s not forget about the 15-14 loss at Mayville State on Oct. 22, which snapped a 21-year win streak over the Comets. That loss came just three weeks after DSU beat the Mayville State 47-14 at the Badlands Activities Center for what held up as its most lopsided victory of the season.
Those two losses by a combined three points would have given the Blue Hawks a winning record and Hank Biesiot the wins record.
DSU got on the winning track the following week at Jamestown College with a 30-6 victory on Sept. 17, which set the tone for all of the Blue Hawks’ wins. Their wins were each convincing (an average point margin of 24.5) and showed the promise of what could have been — especially a 17-0 win over South Dakota Mines in the season finale on Nov. 5.
“I think it showed how much heart and pride our team has,” DSU senior inside linebacker Tyler Schmidkunz said after the season finale. “We didn’t have the season we wanted to or expected to. But we, down to the last game, gave everything we had and left everything on the field. That’s all you can do in the end.”
The Blue Hawks have to wait until 2012 to regroup, refocus and re-evaluate as they try and get their first two wins out of the way in order to move Biesiot into a class by himself, ahead of Frosty Westering as the NAIA’s all-time winningest football coach.
While DSU has 18 players that started in its season finale and three others who were injured set to return, the road gets no easier now that the Blue Hawks are moving to the Frontier Conference — without question one of the toughest leagues in the NAIA where they await an uncertain schedule that will likely see them playing national runner-up Carroll College, Montana State-Northern and Rocky Mountain College twice.
Then again, Biesiot’s teams can never be counted out of a fight.
After all, the Blue Hawks responded to their previous losing season in 2007 by winning three consecutive DAC championships.
Monke is the sports editor of The Dickinson Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog at http://monke.areavoices.com.