Midgets address youth, inexperience on line
For the past three seasons, the Dickinson High football team has had familiar faces on the offensive and defensive line.
With plenty of skill-position players returning, the Midgets’ coaching staff knows it must address their needs on the line.
“Anytime you graduate five starters and the guys that are the first ones in too are seniors, you are going to have a question mark,” Dickinson second-year head coach John Tuchscherer said. “We have six or seven guys right now that we are looking to fill their shoes. We are going to be pretty young and pretty inexperienced, but we’ve done some really good things in fall practice.”
Dickinson starting senior quarterback Andrew Heckaman, who posted a team-high 737 yards and 14 touchdowns, said the offensive line is stepping into bigger roles.
“They are doing really well right now,” said Heckaman, who threw for 607 yards with nine touchdowns and rushed for 130 yards with five touchdowns. “Practice is going well and they just keep getting better. If I see something wrong, I can help them with that. They are willing to learn. They are listening to coach all the time. If coach talks to them, they listen and they go out there and do it.”
Linemen, who Tuchscherer said are looking at seeing plenty of playing time are seniors Jaymin Dolechek and Austin Lindborg, as well as juniors Quaid Larsen, Drew Heiser, Tanner Binstock, Preston Hatzenbuehler and Robert Moser. The linemen, along with many other returners, spent plenty of time during the offseason getting bigger, stronger and faster.
Tuchscherer said more players attended the team’s offseason weight training program than he has seen in quite some time.
“The group of guys that we are looking at to fill those positions — along with the rest of the guys on the team — were very involved in our summer lifting program,” he said. “As far as numbers go, it was the highest amount of kids that we’ve seen lifting during the summer for two, three, four years. That’s something that’s really encouraging.”
During Friday’s scrimmage with Dickinson Trinity and Killdeer, the Midgets had their first glimpse of how their offensive and defensive lines would fare in game situations.
Tuchscherer said, above all, the linemen must become more consistent.
“We want to limit the mistakes and limit the penalties,” he said. “We’ve shown we have the capability of being a good offensive and defensive line, but we just need to limit the mistakes and become more consistent.”
Many of the skill-position players returning include senior wide receivers Carter Blackwell and Ben Twist. The two receivers combined for 19 catches for 165 yards and two touchdowns. At running back, junior Michael McChesney had 148 yards on 31 carries and two touchdowns.
Though the Midgets have many offensive returners, they did graduate two players, both of them four-year starters — Dylan Skabo, who is a freshman for the Dickinson State football team, and Michael Cherwinski. They combined to score 11 touchdowns last season. Skabo was the leading receiver with 495 yards, while Cherwinski was the top rusher with 540 yards.
On the defensive side, Twist and Skabo each had a team-high three interceptions.
Dickinson senior Riley Schmaltz enters his second straight season as the starting middle linebacker. Schmaltz had a team-high 59 tackles and a fumble recovery.
“I’m really excited for the season,” Schmaltz said. “I think we are going to have a top defense again. Hopefully, the offense does really well too.”
The Midgets also return their three-year starting kicker senior Tony Kostelecky. In addition to being the place kicker, Kostelecky can also lineup at wide receiver and defensive back.
During the 2013 season, the Midgets finished 5-4 and missed the playoffs after a loss to Jamestown in their regular-season finale.
The 5-4 season was the first winning season for Dickinson since 2007 when the team went 5-5 under Dave Michaelson, who is an assistant coach.
Tuchscherer said the taste of a winning program helped fuel the fire for the returners.
“The goal is to always make the playoffs,” Tuchscherer said. “Last year was a tough way to end it. We had a decent season, but didn’t make (the playoffs). The guys that were around here last year — it’s a little motivation for them to show up in the summer, attend those camps and try to get better.”
The Midgets begin their season hosting nonconference Class 2A opponent Valley City at 5 p.m. Friday at the Biesiot Activities Center. Dickinson shut out the Hi-Liners 48-0 in the 2013 season opener.
Schmaltz said Dickinson is more focused after missing the playoffs last season.
“After that loss to Jamestown, that’s when I started thinking about next year,” he said. “It’s our senior year. It’s our time to do it. No one really thinks we are making playoffs this year, because we lost so many starters and seniors last year that it’s not going to happen. I think we have a really good chance and I’m excited for the season.”
Dickinson High Midgets
Head coach: John Tuchscherer (2nd season).
Assistants: Dave Michaelson, Jamie Wyant, Jason Kraft, Tom Gray and Jay Hepperle.
Last season: 5-4, missed the playoffs
Returning starters: Andrew Heckaman, Sr., QB/DB; Tony Kostelecky, Sr., K/WR/DB; Ben Twist, Sr., WR/DB; Riley Schmaltz, Sr., OL/LB; Carter Blackwell, Sr., WR/DB; Dillon Clark, WR/RB/LB; Michael McChesney, Jr., RB/LB;
Returners: Preston Theurer, Sr., WR/DB; Trevor Nameniuk, Sr., WR/DB; Tanner Davidson, Jr., QB/DB; Tate Martel, Jr., RB/LB; Kass Dvorak, Sr., RB/LB; Jaymin Dolechek, Sr., OL/DL; Austin Lindborg, Sr., OL/DL; Dual Keck, Jr., OL/DL; Gannon Karsky, Sr., WR/LB; Quaid Larsen, Jr., OL/DL; Drew Heiser, Jr., OL/DL; Dan Haugen, Sr., OL/DL; Preston Hatzenbuehler, Jr., OL/DL; Robert Moser, Jr., OL/DL; Tanner Binstock, Jr., OL/DL.
Losses: Dylan Skabo, WR/PR/KR/DB; Charles Splichal, QB/DB; Levi Jordheim, TE/LB; Jud Mork, WR/DB; Luke Rovig, RB/LB; Michael Cherwinski, RB/LB; Jace Dukart, WR/DB; William Schwindt, FB/LB; Blake Vance, OL/DL; Mitch Mehrer, OL/DL; Tanner Hopfauf, OL/DL; Jordan Wanner, OL/DL; Aaron Sayler, OL/DL; Chris Sickler, OL/DL.