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DSU football fills gaps in the defensive line

Going into the 2018 season, the Dickinson State football team had huge holes in its defensive line. The Blue Hawks graduated four seniors in Josh Kaiwi, Una Masainai, Sifa Vea and Hunter Moore, leaving senior Mitch Mehrer and young Dickinson High...

Freshman Jerrad Weaver (left), senior Mitch Mehrer (middle) and sophomore Quaid Larsen will all see time on the defensive line during the 2018 Dickinson State football season. (Shelby Reardon / The Dickinson Press)
Freshman Jerrad Weaver (left), senior Mitch Mehrer (middle) and sophomore Quaid Larsen will all see time on the defensive line during the 2018 Dickinson State football season. (Shelby Reardon / The Dickinson Press)

Going into the 2018 season, the Dickinson State football team had huge holes in its defensive line.

The Blue Hawks graduated four seniors in Josh Kaiwi, Una Masainai, Sifa Vea and Hunter Moore, leaving senior Mitch Mehrer and young Dickinson High product Quaid Larsen.

"One thing is Mitch Mehrer is back. Quaid Larsen has played as well with a lot of reps. One thing we're going to be looking at is playing a lot of guys," head coach Pete Stanton said. "Last year, we played mainly those four seniors plus Mitch and that was our main rotation. We rotated five or six guys. I could see us this year rotating up to eight different guys. It's going to be a lot of different situations."

Mehrer, a 2013 Dickinson High graduate, is not only one of a slew of seniors this season, but a captain, making him the undeniable leader in the trenches. He played in 10 of last year's 11 games, tallying 29 tackles while Moore and Kaiwi led the line with 32 tackles each.

"He's very relentless with his work ethic," Stanton said of Mehrer, who redshirted his first year at DSU. "Tremendous leadership ability. He leads by example. Everything that he does off the field, that he does in the weight room, on the field, he epitomizes what we want our guys to be like."

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Stanton and his staff were busy in the offseason looking at players to help close the gaps, bringing in junior college transfers, freshmen and even Jerrad Weaver, who was previously in the military. Weaver, from Auburn, Calif., stands 6 feet tall and weighs 255 pounds, making him a formidable force on the line.

"He was here all summer long. He's come in and done a good job for us at nose guard. Jeremy Poyers is another guy that has played at Santa Rosa with a couple of our other guys," Stanton said. "Also, Matt Perez was a teammate of Danny Moreno's, starting for us at linebacker. Those are just three guys that we think have played a lot of football that have a chance to come in and help us. It's just a matter of finding the right combination."

During the season opener against the University of Jamestown on Sept. 1, Weaver and Perez will be on either side of Mehrer, with sophomore Larsen, freshman Blake Murray and Poyer as the next men up.

Murray redshirted last year as an offensive lineman and was scooted over to the defensive line this summer. Jayd Rice, previously a fullback, was also moved up front to fill in some depth.

"A good part of this is our numbers are very, very good," Stanton said. "It's just going to be a competitive thing with those guys and be a matter of a situational thing."

Larsen appeared in seven games last season, earning two tackles and a sack. Meanwhile, Mehrer had a team-high three sacks for 27 yards.

Before Mehrer helped the 2017 Blue Hawks boast the 13th-strongest defense in the league, allowing 20.9 points per game, he was named to the North Dakota All-State second team as a senior in 2013 and a junior in 2012.

He hopes to use his expertise and experience to help bring together the new faces on either side of him this season.

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"Just keep pushing forward. I even have to remind myself that. We're all human and we all make mistakes," Mehrer said. "You can't settle. You always gotta be pushing forward. You always gotta be hungry. That goes for the whole team. If you settle, you're gonna get beat that day."

DSU junior defensive lineman Matthew Perez (54) competes against John Haraldson (65) on the offensive line in a scrimmage on Friday, Aug. 24, at the Biesiot Activities Center. (Shelby Reardon / The Dickinson Press)
DSU junior defensive lineman Matthew Perez (54) competes against John Haraldson (65) on the offensive line in a scrimmage on Friday, Aug. 24, at the Biesiot Activities Center. (Shelby Reardon / The Dickinson Press)

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