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Blue Hawks travel to Iowa to take on Grand View in NAIA playoffs

Dickinson State earned the 14 seed in the bracket and will face No. 3 Grand View on Saturday.

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Dickinson State will be looking to get out of the first round of the NAIA playoffs for the second time in their last six trips on Saturday. (Race Archibald / The Dickinson Press)

It’s playoff time again for Dickinson State football, who will make their sixth-straight postseason appearance this Saturday. They earned the No. 14 seed in the NAIA playoffs and will take on No. 3 Grand View.

GAME INFO

Saturday, Nov. 20 - Dickinson State Blue Hawks (8-0, 8-2) @ Grand View Vikings (5-0, 11-0), Duke Williams Stadium, Des Moines, Iowa, 11:00 a.m. MST.

LAST TIME OUT

The Blue Hawks cleared their final hurdle before reaching the playoffs this week, defeating Waldorf 48-7 on the road for their eighth conference win of the season, capping off a second-straight undefeated season in the North Star Athletic Association. In total, DSU has won 19 straight conference games.

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It took awhile for the Blue Hawks’ offense to kick into gear for their standards, manufacturing a 17-7 halftime lead. Coming into the game, DSU’s toughest challenge on defense was going to be slowing down Warriors’ quarterback Jordan Cooper, who was a legitimate dual-threat quarterback.

But their concerns were somewhat alleviated in the second quarter when Cooper exited the game due to injury. Despite this, Waldorf was able to produce a touchdown drive at the end of the half. That would be all their offense would come up with all day as the Blue Hawks came out of the locker room for the second half firing on all cylinders.

DSU head coach Pete Stanton noted that the Blue Hawks’ third quarter against Waldorf was one of the best they have played all year, putting up 28 points and holding the Warriors to zero first downs.

Quarterback Drew Boedecker had all three of his touchdown passes in the quarter to three different receivers. He’s been playing his best football as of late, averaging 246 yards per game with 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions in the last three games.

Waldorf was held to 146 yards of total offense and eight first downs. The DSU defense tightened up in the second half and were a constant threat in the Warriors’ backfield all day. As a team they recorded 14 tackles for loss and five sacks.

Knowing a victory was required in order to secure a playoff spot, the Blue Hawks were at their best against a good Waldorf team (5-3, 7-3).

Their regular season performance earned them the No. 14 seed in the NAIA playoffs, which were released Sunday evening. It sets up a date with the No. 3 seed Grand View Vikings on the road.

THIS WEEK’S OPPONENT

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A member of the Heart of America Athletic Conference, the Vikings were one of two teams from their conference to earn bids in the NAIA playoffs. The other team is the No. 13 seed Central Methodist.

The conference is split into two divisions, the North and South. Grand View won the North Division for the third year in a row with a 5-0 record in division play.

They have a number of wins this season over current teams ranked inside the NAIA top 25, including No. 13 Baker, No. 16 Central Methodist, and No. 22 Culver-Stockton.

The Vikings pride themselves on a stout defense and extremely efficient offense. They are the best team in the country in terms of red zone scoring, cashing in on 93 percent of their possessions. And if they elect to kick a field goal, kicker Nathan Hamilton is 14 for 16 with a long of 49 yards on the year.

Senior quarterback Johnny Sullivan has started ten of their 11 games this year, having sat in their game against Clarke University last week with an eye on the playoffs.

Sullivan has amassed 1,903 yards with 18 touchdowns and only three interceptions. It isn’t a high-flying passing attack, but it’s an efficient one and complements the running game well, which is the featured part of this offense.

The Vikings have two running backs to look out for; sophomore Ali Scott and junior Casey Hill. Both see a healthy dose of carries in every game, recording over 100 each this season. Scott has a slight edge over Hill with 126 carries for 703 yards. Hill has 113 for 633.

Combined they have 19 touchdowns on the ground, with Scott chipping in two receiving scores.

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Senior wide receiver Bennett Spry leads in receiving with 412 yards and four touchdowns. Grand View has spread the ball around this year, with eight different players having a touchdown reception.

They are 7th in the country in both passing (162 YPG) and rushing (77 YPG) defense, holding opponents to 10.0 points per game.

It’s not an overly flashy unit, but they have 23 sacks on the year and 15 interceptions and have recovered 13 fumbles.

Joe Woodley is in his 14th season at Grand View but third as head coach. With as good as the Vikings’ defense is, it comes to no surprise he previously held the defensive coordinator role for Grand View. The Vikings have consistently been among the top 20 in scoring defense over the last decade.

Woodley has a 31-2 record to date as the head coach, with both losses coming in the 2019 and 2020 playoffs. Grand View has one national championship to their name, coming in 2013.

SERIES HISTORY

This will be the first meeting between the two schools. The Blue Hawks have been in the playoffs in each of the last six seasons, but have failed to get past the opening round on all but one occasion. It hasn’t helped that all of their matchups have been on the road, and against teams ranked sixth or higher.

FROM DSU HEAD COACH PETE STANTON

On facing the Vikings tough defense - "They've been a playoff deep for a long time and have gone deep into the playoffs. Defensively, they have one of the better players at middle linebacker and are very fast in the secondary with a great front. That's what they hang their hat on, defense."

On offense clicking at the right time - "We need to do our thing and execute...They'll suffocate you on defense so you need to be patient. We've done a good job offensively all year."

On Grand View's offense - "They have those two good running backs that split carries and a quarterback that does a great job of running the show. With a powerful offensive line, they want to run the football. But at the same have those good receivers to get those long play action passes."

On getting out of the first round of the NAIA playoffs - "In all those years we've played some great teams whether it was Morningside or Northwestern and other teams that have gone deep in the playoffs. We just have to go in and do our thing and take care of the ball. Last year we didn't do that. For us to advance, not only do we have to play well, we have to limit turnovers and make the best of your opportunities."

KEYS TO THE GAME

Rely on strengths - The Vikings run defense is elite. While the Blue Hawks are capable of putting up yards on the ground, the bulk of their offense comes through the air. Boedecker has been playing well as of late. DSU will need him at his best on Saturday if the run game is taken out of the equation. They’re just as good defending the pass, but it’s an area of the field the Blue Hawks like to attack with all of the talent they have on the outside.

Create turnovers - Grand View does a great job of maintaining possession and not turning the ball over. They have thrown four interceptions and lost eight fumbles. The Blue Hawks have forced a decent amount of turnovers this season, with six multi-interception games, as well as forcing nine fumbles. In the playoffs every extra possession you can get on offense is critical.

Defensive line - DSU’s defensive line seems to have gotten better throughout the season. Led by defensive end Kew Mathern, the Blue Hawks have nine sacks and 22 tackles for loss over the last two weeks. The Vikings have leaned on their ground game throughout the season, and Saturday should be no different. It’ll be a strength vs strength matchup on that side of the ball with both units coming in flying high after Grand View had 312 yards on the ground in their game against Clarke University on Nov. 13.

Related Topics: FOOTBALLNAIA
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