Dickinson State football success a normality
Six-straight NSAA conference championships showcase the strong foundation that has been set in Blue Hawk football.
The Dickinson State University Blue Hawks football team is expected to fly to the top of the North Star Athletic Conference, coming out the unanimous favorites in the head coaches preseason poll. They are ranked 11th in the NAIA top 25 poll, but none of this comes as a surprise with the Blue Hawks string of winning seasons.
Their success is not some happy accident, compiled by chaos. Rather, there have been several twinning threads that have strengthened and persevered DSU football over multiple generations.
Since Pete Stanton took the head coach position prior to the 2015 season, Dickinson State has taken the NSAA all six years, with three undefeated seasons in conference play, including last year. The years prior to this, DSU football went through a series of changes in conferences. From leaving the Dakota Athletic Conference 10 in 2012, to then battling two seasons in the Frontier Conference before joining NSAA.
Stanton mentioned the transition as one of the reasons for their found success, but also advocated the Dickinson community and the program's philosophy as two other key factors.
“Couple of years ago we played in a really tough conference. That was definitely a part of it,” Stanton said. “Culture is a big part of it and we have a community and University with amazing support.”
In college, Stanton played for the Blue Hawks under legendary head coach Hank Biesot in the mid 80’s. During that time Stanton gained a fundamental understanding of the Dickinson State football culture and how it can bring the best out of players.
“We went 30 years in a row without a losing season, so it's a long standing tradition and it is very well supported by our community and our recruits understand that,” Stanton said. “We have great coaches and they are doing a great job on the field, but the rapport they have with the guys off the field is a really important thing.”
Stanton also talked about their summer camp that brings focus to their players year round. This past summer, DSU had 50 players training and learning that their roles go beyond the field.
“Getting 50-plus guys here in the summer and them buying into year round has been a big thing,” Stanton said. “We expected them to not only be leaders on the field, but to organize our guys off the field. Set a good example in the classroom, do volunteer work and if they don't do that, if they waiver from our culture then they can't be a part of it. Our guys know that and our older guys do a good job of showing them the way.”
Recruiting certainly has played its role for the Blue Hawks, especially geographically. Dickinson’s location allows them to obtain talents from North Dakota, but also bordering states.
”Football is great in North Dakota...We look at where we are at with 80 guys on our roster from Montana and North Dakota and then add another 20 of guys from Wyoming and South Dakota.” Stanton said. “I think this region and surrounding areas lend itself to some good football and we are gonna make sure that guys from this area are going to receive good representation in our program.”
As recruits join the program, the staff and upperclassmen show them the way of the Dickinson State style of play and culture, but also allow themselves to adjust when necessary.
”You have a base system of what you are going towards offensively and defensively, but our coaching staff does a good job on both sides of the ball and the special team with coach Koch, on adjusting,” Stanton said. “Week to week, adjusting to the opponents and then holding all of our guys accountable that they are going to execute on both sides of the ball. That is always going to be our theme. That we are going to play very hard and as smart as we can on the field.”