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Blue Hawks put No. 15 on the backburner

The Dickinson State football team entered the teens of the NAIA coaches' poll for the first time this season after its 55-36 victory over previously undefeated Presentation College on Saturday.

Dickinson State's Jed Fike dives forward during a run against Presentation College on Sept. 24 at the Biesiot Activities Center.
Dickinson State's Jed Fike dives forward during a run against Presentation College on Sept. 24 at the Biesiot Activities Center. (Press Photo / Parker Cotton)

The Dickinson State football team entered the teens of the NAIA coaches' poll for the first time this season after its 55-36 victory over previously undefeated Presentation College on Saturday.

The Blue Hawks jumped up six places from No. 21 a week ago, and their new No. 15 ranking is particularly notable because the NAIA playoff format is a 16-team bracket.

In theory, if the season ended today, the Blue Hawks would be on their way to a second consecutive postseason appearance.

But this is not the time to theorize, nor is it a four-game season, argued head coach Pete Stanton, so he won't be anxiously awaiting the release of the weekly polls anytime soon.

"We don't talk about it, we don't look at it. If you do that you don't get focused on the game, and the next day you're No. 22," he said. "When the season's done that's when you want to look at the rankings. Our focus is on Valley (City, this Saturday), but let's say this: it's a nice honor for the program."

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More important than any ranking is the team's play of late. The Blue Hawks are averaging 45 points per game since a 13-point output against Montana Western, and last week were able to get the run game cranking after the pass game was shut down early.

During their three-game win streak, DSU has trailed in the second half for a grand total of 3 minutes, 12 seconds of game play. They've also forced nine turnovers - seven interceptions and two fumbles - during the win streak and have scored three defensive touchdowns.

Two of those scores came on Saturday, when the Blue Hawks tallied 55 points despite Kaley Ray not having one passing touchdown.

If their recent run of success continues, late season rankings will only get friendlier for the Blue Hawks.

"We know we're a good team, but we don't pay attention right now," said linebacker Drew Johnson. "Once we got through the conference play it will matter more. If we continue on the path we're going, maybe it could lead to a home playoff game, but for right now we're just thinking about Valley City."

Second time around

The Blue Hawks' first win of the season was against Valley City earlier this month, but that was technically just another regular season game, and was played in the welcoming confines of the Biesiot Activities Center.

When DSU travels to Valley City on Saturday, it will be their second North Star Athletic Association contest, and it will be played in a stadium the Blue Hawks haven't won in since 2010.

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"It's going to be a battle, going out to Valley City," Stanton said. "They're a very good home team, and they're a good offensive team that's played really well for the last couple of weeks."

The Vikings come into the game at 2-2, having just beat up on fellow NSAA opponent Waldorf College, 36-7.

In the victory, quarterback Kurtis Walls compiled an efficient 19 of 28 with 193 passing yards and one touchdown. When the Blue Hawks were briefly outplayed in their first matchup, it was Walls that gave them trouble as both a passer and runner.

Injury report

Jay Liggins, who missed last week's game with a nagging leg injury, is still day-to-day, according to Stanton.

The sophomore cornerback has been practicing all week and will likely be a gametime decision on Saturday.

"He's not quite there yet," Stanton said. "He's getting closer, though. Since that first game his knee's been bothering him some off and on, but we're hopeful that he's able to go."

Although Cain Boschee, Liggins' replacement, put on an incredible show with three interceptions and two touchdown returns against Presentation, the secondary sorely missed Liggins against the Saints, and allowed quarterback Austin Eggl to throw for five touchdowns.

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The Blue Hawks will have wide receiver Seth Ewoniuk available for the first time this season, however. Stanton called the 5-foot-7 Ewoniuk a "dynamic part of the offense" when healthy.

In 10 games last season, he grabbed 16 catches for 175 yards and one touchdown.

Trifecta completed

Redshirt freshman Cody Johnson is perfect on PATs this season, near perfect on field goal attempts, and 3 for 3 in his last three games in earning NSAA Special Teams Player of the Week Honors.

He faced his most pressure-filled moment of his college career on Saturday against Presentation, when he was called upon to kick a 28-yard field goal with his Blue Hawks trailing by one in the third quarter. He nailed that one, and later added to his total with a 32-yarder late in the fourth.

He said the recognition means a lot to him, and that his teammates love jostling him about the awards.

"It's cool to get my name out there. It's not going to get in my head, though," Johnson said. "It's not going to make me think I'm too good and don't need to work at it anymore, you know."

Related Topics: BLUE HAWKS
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