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4 atop DAC still tied with 2 weeks to go

It's still a fight to the finish in the Dakota Athletic Conference. With two weeks left in the regular season, none of the four football teams battling for the conference championship have separated from the pack. Two weeks ago, Dickinson State, ...

It's still a fight to the finish in the Dakota Athletic Conference.

With two weeks left in the regular season, none of the four football teams battling for the conference championship have separated from the pack.

Two weeks ago, Dickinson State, Black Hills State, Minot State and South Dakota Mines all had 4-0 conference records. They are all now 5-1 after winning and losing a game the past two weeks.

The chase for the DAC title heats up Saturday during rivalry week as No. 11-ranked DSU goes to Minot State for what appears to be the final game between the long-time rivals -- at least for the foreseeable future -- and No. 24 Black Hills State visits No. 18 South Dakota Mines with the Homestake Trophy up for grabs.

"Any week, I think any team can win," Black Hills State coach Jay Long said.

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Never in the DAC's 11-year history has the race for the conference championship been so close coming into the final two weeks of the season.

Titles have been decided in the final week of the season with as many as three teams still in the race -- there were three-way ties for the title in 2002 and 2007 -- but never have teams encountered a scenario where the final four weeks meant so much, and never have four teams still been in the hunt with two weeks remaining.

"I would think it's a rarity in about any league," Minot State head coach Paul Rudolph said.

With this being the DAC's final season as an eight-team league, it makes for high drama entering the conference's final two weeks.

Black Hills State, Minot State and South Dakota Mines begin making the move to NCAA Division II next season.

"Having four football teams going in with a chance for first place is good for the conference," DSU head coach Hank Biesiot said. "It'll be a very interesting way to end it."

Though two teams will gain an edge on Saturday, a lot can happen during the final day of the season at the DAC Bowl, which will be held Sunday, Nov. 7 at the Fargodome.

The Nos. 1 and 4 teams and the Nos. 2 and 3 teams entering the week are set to play at the DAC Bowl.

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However, coaches have asked and athletic directors have approved that no team will play the team it faced the previous week.

That means DSU and Minot State will play either Black Hills State or South Dakota Mines.

DAC commissioner Lavern Jessen said Monday that there are several scenarios for the DAC Bowl, but nothing will be set in stone until after the NAIA coaches poll is released on Monday.

"There's a lot of scenarios and I've worked through them all," Jessen said.

Scenarios exist where all four teams can finish the season with 6-2 conference records.

"Even after the dome day, could there be a four-way tie for first? I think so," Biesiot said.

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