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Coming back home: Blue Hawks host Mayville State in homecoming bout

Dickinson State senior defensive lineman Mitch Mehrer tackles Mayville State senior running back Preston Hamlette in a contest last season at the Biesiot Activities Center. (Shelby Reardon / The Dickinson Press)

With trips to Montana, Wisconsin, South Dakota and Iowa, the Dickinson State football team has racked up 4,300 miles on a bus this fall.

This week, they won't have an early wake up call on Friday; they won't have to be confined to a bus for hours; they won't have to sleep in a hotel.

This week, Mayville State visits the Blue Hawks. This week, is homecoming.

"It's always a great atmosphere coming back home, especially when we've been on the road so much lately," senior offensive lineman Devin Schwanz said. "There's so many people that show up to the game. The last two crowds have been phenomenal. Hopefully, we can show off for them again."

Last season, Dickinson State (4-2, 2-1 NSAA) faced the Comets (1-5, 0-3 NSAA) twice, defeating them by a combined score of 122-14. So far at home this season, the Blue Hawks have outscored their opponents 110-0.

While those dominant numbers are hard to ignore, head coach Pete Stanton said he doesn't expect a win to come easy on Saturday, Oct 13, at the BAC.

"First, it's great to be home. ... The excitement level of being at home and the excitement level of homecoming are really big things, but we still have to go out and perform and do our thing," Stanton said. "Mayville is going to come in here ... we know we're going to get their best shot. We got to go out and do our thing and have some fun."

The Comets have three people on the roster that can do damage.

First is junior defensive end Tyler Gay, who is ranked No. 10 in the NAIA with an average of 1.1 sacks per game. He also has 22 tackles over five games this season, including 7.5 tackles for a loss.

"They have a couple very good defensive players, a couple of the stronger players in the conference, guys that are active." Stanton said. "(They have) guys that really move around well at linebacker and upfront."

Another weapon is senior wide receiver Trent Momon, who at 6-foot-5, 205-pounds, has little trouble getting to the ball when it's thrown his way. He's made seven of the Comets' 10 touchdown receptions and with his 40 catches this fall (10th most in the league), he's accumulated 539 yards.

"Very good length, very good speed and you can see when we played them last year you could see his speed was different than everybody else," Stanton recalled. "We certainly have to be aware of him on the vertical pass game."

In 2017, in a pair of games against Dickinson State, Momon had four receptions for 75 yards, but didn't score.

Targeting Momon is sophomore quarterback Creighton Pfau. Although he's young, Pfau started 10 of the 11 Mayville State games last season, sitting for the final game at the BAC on Nov. 11.

This season, he has posted 1,670 total offensive yards, 12th most in the league, including 1,221 passing yards.

His 449 yards on the ground is the most among Comets, topping senior running back Preston Hamlette by more than 100 yards.

"He does a really good job of running their scheme. He does a really good job of making plays on his feet and he's very athletic," Stanton said. "We just have to have everyone on defense doing their job. It's a little different look than what we saw last week. Last week was more of a (run-pass-option) look and now we'll see more of a midline option look where their quarterback is going to make a lot of reads and carry the ball a lot more. ... We just have to be really disciplined."

Despite having the ninth strongest defense in the league, allowing just 14.7 points per game, the Blue Hawks struggled tackling last week against another dual-threat quarterback in Joseph Hilton.

Junior Kevin Brown, who posted eight tackles and two fumble recoveries last week at Waldorf (Iowa), said he and the linebacking corps are working to make sure they don't make that mistake again.

"We've been focusing a lot on our tackling circuit, getting the right angles, keeping our feet moving, taking one extra step instead of diving and just keeping our technique on point," Brown said.

The offense also struggled, earning 349 total yards, 100 yards shy of the team's average of 449 yards per game. The key to getting the offense clicking again lies in the run game.

"Our run game was alright and we're going to get that going again this week. It all starts with the run," Schwanz said. "We were just put in the situation towards the third and fourth quarter where we had to get away from running and pass a lot more because of turnovers. If we can control the pace of the game and the run game controls the pace of the game, essentially, so we just want to keep that steady and not be so one dimensional."