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Quarterback situation could be a platoon between Ray, Gibson

For the first time all season, there is some uncertainty as to who the Dickinson State starting quarterback will be next game. The current two-deep roster for their matchup against Waldorf College in Forest City, Iowa, has Kaler Ray -- who has st...

Senior quarterback Kaler Ray scrambles on a first quarter drive in Dickinson State's win over Valley City State in Valley City last Saturday. (Samuel Evers / The Dickinson Press)
Senior quarterback Kaler Ray scrambles on a first quarter drive in Dickinson State's win over Valley City State in Valley City last Saturday. (Samuel Evers / The Dickinson Press)

For the first time all season, there is some uncertainty as to who the Dickinson State starting quarterback will be next game.

The current two-deep roster for their matchup against Waldorf College in Forest City, Iowa, has Kaler Ray - who has started every game this season - but that is more of a formality, said Pete Stanton. Redshirt freshman Hayden Gibson is still very much in the mix.

Who trots out to the field on 1st-and-10 Saturday will not be decided until the morning of, Stanton said.

"Right now it's going to be a situation where both quarterbacks are going to see time in the game. We've done this in the past. Every week we'll evaluate and see where we're at come Saturday, and Saturday it'll be a decision among the coaches as far as who goes where and who plays," Stanton said. "But really they've both played in every game this year. It's just going to be a matter of where we fit them. That's kind of where we're at, it's going to be a gametime decision on how much either of them are going to go."

This ambivalence midway through the week comes from Ray's poor first quarter performance against Valley City State, and Gibson's ignition of the offense from the second quarter on.

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While Gibson threw two touchdown passes in the span of a few first half minutes, Ray, to his credit, was on the sidelines cheering and owning up to his role as captain.

"I mean, obviously, that's not how you want to show up on Saturdays, but regardless the job has to get done, and if my job is being on the sideline, that's how I'm going to lead. That's how I have to do it," said Ray, who has five passing touchdowns and two interceptions through five games. "You just have to forget about it. It happened, it's over. Nothing you can do about it now. Just have to move forward and get better."

As part of this new quarterback evaluation process, Gibson and Ray have split time and reps in practice this week - another fact the ever-cheerful Ray has taken in stride.

"Hayden's doing a good job balling with me this week. It's been awesome, it's been competitive and fun," he said. "We just have to stay positive, man. That's the key to life, I think. I don't have everything figured out, but I think it's to be positive."

A running game made for three

If only the quarterback position could be as agreeable as the running back position.

While Gibson and Ray engage in a healthy competition for the role of starter, the trio of Tray Boone, Jed Fike and Karsten Mack Jr. can all work through the week knowing all will play, and all will have a chance to make big plays.

The three-man committee had its best day last Saturday, totaling 315 rush yards. Jed Fike ran for two touchdowns, Boone had some nice plays then was given the day off for most of the second half, and Mack Jr. saw his most significant workload in his true freshman season.

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The Texas native sparked an end-of-the-half touchdown drive with three hard runs and 22 yards. In his first handful of college games, Mack Jr. carried the ball sparingly, and the brunt of his opportunities were in the fourth quarter in blowouts one way or the other; expect that to change going forward.

"We wanted to get him involved. He's just too good of a player. We decided not to redshirt him, and he's too good not to get some carries, too," Stanton said. "We really made it a point this week to get him some carries early and that's probably something we're going to do all year long. We don't want him to be involved at the end, we want to get him going early."

With the luxury of all that quality depth, Stanton said the offensive coaching staff plans to tone down the burden for team touchdown leader Boone in an effort to keep him fresh for the stretch run and possibly into the postseason.

In a normal season, said the coach, Boone might be rushing more.

But when you have two Cadillacs to compliment your Ferrari, then why put all the milage on one car?

After the win over Valley City State last Saturday, Fike summed the situation up well.

"I'm definitely not going to get tired out there because we have fresh legs all the time," he said. "It's only going to help our playoff berth chances with the running backs we have."

'A lot of bro time'
The itinerary for this week's road trip to Iowa will look something like this: Pack the bus on Friday at 5:30 a.m.; leave at 6 a.m.; stop in Fargo for a walkthrough practice at 10 a.m.; eat dinner at Sioux Falls whenever the team gets there; and hopefully arrive by 7 p.m. The game starts at noon MT on Saturday.

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On paper at least, the Blue Hawks figure to be a significant favorite. Two weeks ago, Valley City State beat up on Waldorf (1-5), 36-7. A week later, DSU beat up on Valley City, 34-7.

But that type of de facto thinking is exactly what Stanton wants to avoid.

"One thing we've stressed with our guys is you can't scoreboard watch or scoreboard compare. You start doing that and you get in trouble," he said. "We know they're going to be better at home so we have to be ready to ring the bell on Saturday."

Last year, playing at home at the Biesiot Activities Center, DSU waltzed to a 31-14 victory over the Warriors. The last time the Blue Hawks made the journey to Waldorf College in 2014, DSU won on a last-second goal-line stand.

Ray was a sophomore at the time, and remembers the game - and subsequent bus ride home - very well.

"They're wild. It's going to be a dog fight. It's a tough place to play; their sideline gets pretty rambunctious. That's fun, it's going to be a great football environment. We're going to have to bring our A game," he said. "The ride back was a lot of bro time. A lot of bro time, for sure. But once you get the W the ride goes by pretty quick."

Related Topics: BLUE HAWKS
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