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Dickinson State defends NSAA title for fifth-straight year

The Dickinson State football team looked to only do one thing against Mayville State — win. They did just that in a game that was a warning to everyone, they’re still the best team in the NSAA.

After the Waldorf Warriors defeated Valley City 28-7, all the No. 20 Blue Hawks needed to do was record a win against the Comets to defend its NSAA championship and push its way back into playoff contention. They did just that with a dominating blowout.

Less than a minute into the game, after winning the coin toss but deferring to kick, the Blue Hawks led 7-0. The rest was history.

“We knew our guys were going to come out and play a good game, like they did, and things fell into place with Waldorf beating Valley City, so it was a really special day today,” head coach Pete Stanton said.

With the win, Stanton also recorded his 50th victory as the head coach of the Dickinson State football team.

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“It’s all about the program and I’m just happy to be a part of it, “ he said. “We got a great bunch of coaches and a great bunch of players that never quit and always persevering, it’s a special place to be.”

In the first 39-seconds, Comets’ sophomore quarterback Tim Martin would attempt to connect with first-year Reese Hanson but was intercepted by Blue Hawks senior cornerback Trent Rohr who was brought down at the Blue Hawks 36-yard line.

The interception would be followed by a 15-yard connection between senior quarterback Hayden Gibson and junior Tyger Frye. Gibson then scored the first touchdown of the game with a 49-yard connection to first-year wideout Conor McCarvel. In less than a minute, the Blue Hawks led 7-0.

Rohr’s interception was the first of six for the team, who forced seven turnovers in the game.

“Every time a big play happens, it kinda gets the team going. So with the very first play of the game being a (interception), I feel like that kinda ignited everybody (on both) offensive and defense, and everything,” Rohr said.

Following the touchdown, the Blue Hawks forced the Comets to punt the ball and first-year punt returner Isiah Kludt would return the punt for 56-yards, bringing the ball into the Comets red zone. After obtaining a minor hand injury, Gibson would be subbed out for senior quarterback Kooper Ray who would make a 4-yard touchdown connection with first-year wideout Noah Sickler, extending the lead 14-0.

“I was just happy to be out here, finally!” Ray said.

After another pass was tipped by Blue Hawks defense and intercepted by senior safety Dillon Reiner, the Blue Hawks started their next drive at their own 37-yard line and pushed down field once again. Near the end zone, senior running back Amad Andrews Jr. was able to break through the line for a 1-yard touchdown, his only touchdown of the day, and extended the lead to 21-0, still midway through the first quarter.

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Andrews would end the day with six total yards on five rushing attempts and one touchdown.

Following another three-and-out Mayville State punt, Dickinson State would take possession on its own 20-yard line. Gibson would then connect with Sickler for a 80-yard touchdown reception. At the end of the first quarter, Dickinson State would lead 28-0.

Sickler led the receivers with 98 total yards on three receptions and record two touchdowns.

Mayville started the second quarter with the ball but had the ball intercepted by sophomore Trace Jones. The Blue Hawks then went on a 12-set series which ended with a 10-yard touchdown connection between Gibson and junior running back Derek Tabor.

During the long series, tempers flared between the two teams in which a Comets player was dealt a personal foul and instant ejection for kicking the stomach of a fallen Blue Hawk athlete after a play.

Following the touchdown, Gibson would be subbed out for Ray and would not play the rest of the game. Gibson would end the game 100% passing going 11-11 for 223-yards and three touchdowns. Ray would end going 6-10 on passing for 70 total yards, one touchdown and ran the ball for 34 total yards on seven attempts.

Despite being happy with playing a large amount of the game, Ray credited his leading quarterback with another dominating half.

“I feel great, but I really wish that I could have seen Hayden play a little bit more on his senior night. That would have been a great way for him to go out but he did great and I was just honored to come in right after him,” Ray said.

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As a team, the Blue Hawks went 100% passing until its first incomplete pass came with 5:10 left in the second quarter. Dickinson State would end the first half leading 35-0.

In just the first half alone, the Blue Hawks crushed the Comets on offensive yards 326 on 36 plays compared to 67-yards on 30 plays. They ended the game with 615 total yards on 71 plays compared to the Comets recording 242 yards on 56 plays.

Dickinson State continued its domination in the second half by scoring on its opening drive with a 7-yard run by first-year rusher Ryan Linder to extend the lead 42-0. Linder would end with 86 total yards on 16 attempts and record two touchdowns.

After trailing the Blue Hawks by the large margin, Martin connected with sophomore Jacquante Pitts for a 60-yard touchdown, narrowing the massive gap 42-7 with 10 minutes left in the third.

The Blue Hawks eventually countered with a 62-yard touchdown run by first-year rusher Alec Lovegren, giving Dickinson State a 49-7 lead going into the fourth.

Linder started the fourth quarter with a 1-yard scamper to push the lead even further to 49. Mayville State countered with another touchdown connection between Martin and Pitts for 3-yards, but the damage was done. Dickinson State blocked the PAT to give the team a 49-13 lead, and close the gap with a 1-yard touchdown run by junior rusher Derek Tabor with a little over a minute to play.

Tabor led the team in rushing with 88 total yards on 15 attempts and the one touchdown.

With the blowout lead in motion, and the previous announcement that Waldorf defeated Valley City, the November air felt like July. Coach Stanton hugged his seniors on the sidelines as smiles swirled throughout the field.

As the players and fans counted down the seconds, as if it was 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 31, Stanton’s back was showered with the ice water by his players a smile tattooed on his mouth, never moving, permanently staying there.

Just like that, the Blue Hawks were NSAA champions once more. The screams of the players, coaches, and fans, were raised as was the NSAA championship trophy.

For the 14 seniors, it was a great way to end the regular season and their careers in the NSAA, being champions throughout each of their four-years as Blue Hawk athletes.

“You know, the second (title) felt good, the third (title) felt good, but the fifth (title) feels the sweetest. Being a senior, watching every body grow from the beginning of the season to everything...the seniors deserve it, but everybody on this team deserves it, it’s an awesome feeling,” Rohr said.

With the victory, the title, and the 50th win, coach Stanton has a lot to celebrate. But just as he told his seniors at the end of the game on the sideline, “the job is not done.” Now comes the time every athlete works towards, the playoffs.

“We’ll enjoy (the win) now and get us (prepared) next week to get healed up...It’s going to give us a chance to get re-grouped and healed up and just enjoy today,” he said.

Related Topics: FOOTBALL
Matthew Curry is a sports reporter and photographer for the West Central Tribune.
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