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DWU Football Picked 4th by Coaches at Media Day

Contributed by admin on Aug 21, 2015 - 03:59 PM
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SOUTH SIOUX CITY, Neb. – The 2015 Great Plains Athletic Conference football season is right around the corner and the GPAC hosted the 16th annual Football Media Day Thursday at the Marina Inn in South Sioux City, Neb.

The event provided Dakota Wesleyan University Head Coach Ross Cimpl a platform to discuss the upcoming season, his fourth campaign with the Tigers, who were picked to finish the 2015 GPAC schedule fourth (51 points) by the coaches and fifth (52 points) by the media after a fourth-place finish in 2014.

Morningside College was picked first in both polls, while Northwestern College took both second-pace nods. Doane College was picked third in both polls. The Mustangs and Red Raiders shared the 2014 GPAC title.

"I'm excited to compete and excited to be here," Cimpl said. "That word compete is one we throw around a lot with our team."

Cimpl opened by saying he is thrilled to be tied at the top of the conference at 0-0 heading into the year, as this always creates the opportunity for big things to happen. He added that with this being his fourth year, all of the players on the roster are his players that were brought in by Cimpl and his staff. He also highlighted that this class of seniors has the chance to be the winningest of any in program history with a successful year.

"Those guys (the 2015 senior class) came to DWU on a vision," Cimpl said. "I don't think they have accomplished all of their goals yet, but they have put us in a position to be talked about and to do great things."

The 2015 recruiting class is the largest for Cimpl in his tenure at DWU. The class stands at 48. Cimpl emphasized the push to recruit close to home, with the majority of the incoming freshman coming from South Dakota, Nebraska and other surrounding states.

"This is our backyard and we are going to win in our backyard with recruiting," Cimpl said of his 2015 class of newcomers.

The Tigers return seven starters on both sides of the ball and three players are coming back on special teams. DWU graduated just seven seniors after the 2014 season, but all left a hole that needs to be filled heading into the fall. The biggest loss for the Tigers comes in the running game, with the school's all-time leading rusher Francois Barnaud and three All-GPAC members of the offensive line graduating. Cimpl said he thinks highly of what sophomore running back John Fabrizius can do and he will be pushed by five incoming freshmen in the backfield.

Cimpl is optimistic about the return of starting quarterback Dillon Turner, who started 10 games as a true freshman and progressed each week in 2014. The DWU wide receiving corps will be experienced with several leaders coming back, including tight end Trevor Schroeder and Kodi Larson.

The defense will be led on the line by Brady Mudder and Sam Kiger, while Brady Bonte and Adam Bormann are back to boost the linebacking corps. The defensive backfield sees the return of Tanner Munk and Cody Bonte, while sophomore Trevin Island comes back to DWU after a year apart from the program in 2014.

"For us it's our guys trusting what we are doing," Cimpl said. "We have some great players. Our guys move in Friday and we will find out Saturday morning after our conditioning test who is ready to go and who is not. I have a good feeling that a lot of those guys have prepared mentally, physically and hopefully some of them spiritually."

Tiger Football Ready to Roar in Opener against Rival Dakota State

Contributed by admin on Aug 26, 2015 - 11:45 PM
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MITCHELL, S.D. – For the first time since the early 1920s, the Dakota Wesleyan University football team completed a fourth straight winning season in 2014.  The Tigers are hoping to build on momentum with another step toward a Great Plains Athletic Conference title in 2015.

Fourth-year head coach Ross Cimpl is back to lead the Tigers after graduating a senior class that tied the school record for most wins in a four-year span at 27.  The Tigers will be looking to some familiar faces to lead a new group of players in 2015 after the graduation of key contributors.

"The 2015 team has a great deal of depth, talent, and ability to do something very special," Cimpl said.  "We have a group of upperclassman that have been part of the most successful years in DWU history.  That leadership has to come to the forefront for us to have a special season.  This group has worked extremely hard to accomplish their goals.  It will be very exciting to see these guys put all their hard work and dedication to the program on the line every game."

In 2014, the Tigers had the benefit of playing five of their first six games at Joe Quintal Field in Mitchell, and DWU treated its fans to some thrilling contests.  The cardiac cats of 2014, posted heart-pounding comebacks at home, including against the University of Wisconsin-Stout, an NCAA Division III program, in the season opener.  The Tigers scored 16 unanswered points in the fourth quarter against Stout to erase a 12-point deficit and avenge a loss on the road a season earlier.

After narrow wins against GPAC foes Briar Cliff University, Hastings College and rival Dakota State University, the Tigers headed into a showdown on Oct. 11 against Doane College.  Down 23-7 midway through the fourth quarter, all looked lost for DWU.  But big plays on defense and special teams ignited the Tigers, who rallied with three touchdowns in less than four minutes to pull ahead for good.  The win pushed the Tigers to No. 16 in the NAIA rankings.

DWU suffered several key injuries in 2014, which hampered the team down the stretch, as the Tigers dropped three of their final five games, all coming in the GPAC.  DWU finished the season 7-4 and 5-4 in the conference to tie for fourth place.

Heading into 2015, the expectations remain high.  Cimpl will look to replace the production of DWU's all-time leading rusher Francois Barnaud, who finished his stellar four-year career with 3,558 yards, surpassing former teammate Josh Endres for the top spot in Tiger history.  After setting the single-season rushing mark at 1,893 yards in 2013, Barnaud battled through leg injuries throughout the 2014 season, still posting 1,409 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns.

When 2014 started, Cimpl had the task of replacing the most decorated quarterback in DWU history, Jon Bane.  In stepped true freshman Dillon Turner.  After coming in midway through the first game of the season to lead the Tigers to a win, Turner cemented himself as the starter for the remainder of the year.  The Salem, Ark., native saw peaks and valleys in his first season under center, but showed the DWU fans his ability as a playmaker.  Turner is a dual-threat quarterback who keeps the defense honest with his legs.  Turner finished the season with 1,741 yards through the air and 13 touchdown passes, along with 357 yards on the ground and eight more scores.

"The quarterback position has really matured over the off season and summer," Cimpl said.  "The guys have done a great job of learning the offense and becoming comfortable leading the offense.  In terms of improvement, having a year of experience will help, but we need to be able to throw the ball downfield.  We need to open up our run game with a vertical passing game.  With that, protecting the football will be critical for the quarterback position."

With seven starters returning on offense, DWU will have a solid core back in 2015.  Each loss on offense will be felt as all four were All-GPAC performers in 2014.  Along with Barnaud, DWU will need to replace three key members of its offensive line in 2015 with the graduation of Kyle Hencke, Jake Verry and Spencer Bloch.  Seniors Taylor Haley and Jonathan Knight will bring experience to a young group up front for the Tigers this season.

"Barnaud and the experience on the offensive line being gone is going to require more players on the offensive side of the football to step up and rise to the occasion," Cimpl said.  "John Fabrizius is someone who has been in our program and shown great ability in his time as a redshirt freshman.  We are also looking to play some young running backs that have a great deal of ability, but lack experience."

Cimpl is excited about his wide receivers and tight ends, which all have the ability to make plays on the outside and down the field.  Returners Kodi LarsonDustin LivingstonTrevor SchroederHayden Adams and Lewis Hofer give the Tigers depth at the receiver positions. After a year away from football, wide receiver Arthur Brown has come back to Mitchell for his senior season after a standout junior year in 2013.

"The most surprising group has to be the receivers," Cimpl said.  "There is a great deal of talent at that position and multiple guys who can have a big game or play at any time.

On the defensive side of the ball, DWU returns seven starters, including former All-American linebacker Brady Bonte.  The senior led the Tigers in tackles for a second straight season in 2014 with 83.  The Garretson, S.D., native added a team-high five sacks and 22 tackles-for-loss in his junior campaign.  Junior Adam Bormann will add depth to the Tiger linebacker corps in 2015, after a 69-tackle season as a sophomore.

The Tiger defensive backfield sees the return of All-GPAC performer Tanner Munk, a senior from Dell Rapids, S.D., who tied for team high in interceptions with four.  Munk has a knack for being around the ball, finishing second on the team with 73 tackles in 2014.  He also led the team with 14 pass breakups a year ago.

Defensively we have a great deal of experience coming back.  We have some great playmakers at the linebacker position in Brady Bonte and Adam Bormann.  We are very excited about the depth we have at the corner position with Tanner Munk, Cody Bonte and Trevin Island.  The defensive line has some experience mixed with some young players that will need to stay healthy to play at a high level.

Special teams returns three starters, including kicker and punter Daniel Porter, a senior from Plattsmouth, Neb.  Porter will be pushed this season by a group of incoming Tiger freshman kickers.  The return game will get a boost from All-GPAC returner Livingston, who continually got stronger in 2014 and was named GPAC Special Teams Player-of-the-Week after the season-ending game against Dordt College.  Livingston took a punt back 70 yards for a score in the snow against the Defenders.

After graduating just seven seniors, albeit key members of the team, the Tigers should be deeper in 2015, with several sophomores and redshirt freshmen joining Cimpl's largest-ever recruiting class of more than 40 players.

"There has been some great competition at all positions, but we have some great battles going on with the wide receiver group, the outside linebacker group, as well as the safety position on defense," Cimpl said.  "We are fortunate that we have some depth at those positions with older and younger players.  We have some options to put on the field."

Looking at Dakota State:

When DWU and Dakota State University meet on the football field fans know what to expect. The game has gone down to the wire the last two seasons despite a perceived advantage on the Tiger side of the ball. With several former high school teammates lining up across from each other, it makes for a great storyline.

DWU will open the 2015 season against DSU at 6 p.m. Saturday in Madison, S.D.  The Tigers hold a 38-30-1 advantage over the Trojans all time. DSU finished the 2014 season with a

Last season, the Tigers outlasted the Trojans 27-22. DWU rallied after falling behind 9-0 in the first quarter. After pulling away 27-16 with a 43-yard touchdown reception by Trevor Schroeder, DWU looked to be in control midway through the fourth quarter, but DSU answered with a 75-yard touchdown pass from Brendon Waldner to Justin Summers. The Tigers held on a fourth-and-one late in the game on a tackle by Bormann to secure the win.

The game was one of the best of the season for Turner, who completed 21-of-35 passes for 22 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Turner also rushed for another score.