Tigers looking to stay unbeatenThere’s no hiding that today’s football matchup between Dakota Wesleyan and Hastings is a big one.
By: Kevin Pottebaum, The Daily Republic
There’s no hiding that today’s football matchup between Dakota Wesleyan and Hastings is a big one.
The 3-0 Tigers travel to face the 3-0 Broncos in the NAIA game of the week, voted by fans around the nation, at 1 p.m. today at Lloyd Wilson Field in Hastings, Neb.
“For me to sit here and say it’s not a big game would just be me giving coach speak,” Hastings coach Tony Harper said. “It’s a big game because it’s two teams with undefeated records that are trying to establish themselves in this conference.”
The No. 22-ranked Tigers are 2-0 in the Great Plains Athletic Conference, while Hastings, which received votes in the national poll, is 3-0 in the GPAC.
“This is a huge game for us,” Wesleyan coach Ross Cimpl said. “They’re a quality team and we want to stay on track with our goals.
“This seems like a game that always comes down to the wire and guys are always sore and hurt after this one. It’s one of those games where you really have to get mentally ready to go.”
Both teams are coming off victories over Briar Cliff University. Hastings topped the Chargers 34-24 last week at the DakotaDome in Vermillion, while the Tigers downed Briar Cliff 23-13 on Sept. 15 in Mitchell.
DWU won that game without starting quarterback Jon Bane, who after a bye week is ready to return under center. Bane, who was replaced by backup Joey Olson, suffered a concussion in the Tigers’ win over Concordia Sept. 8.
“Bane practiced all last week during the bye week and practiced all this week,” Cimpl said. “He’ll be playing and hopefully we can get some big production out of him.”
Cimpl said the bye week came at a good time for the Tigers.
“It was huge, not only for us to get healthy and healed up, but it was another week for our younger guys to get practice,” he said.
Harper is one person that won’t be thrilled to see Bane returning to the field.
In two games this season, Bane is 35-of-58 passing for 450 yards and four touchdowns. Harper said Bane’s best attribute on plays come from more than just his throwing arm.
“We have to keep Bane in the box,” he said. “He extends plays. He can keep the play alive long enough for receivers to find holes and we’re going to have to keep him contained.”
Harper also said the Hastings defense needs to watch out for Josh Endres out of the backfield.
Endres leads the GPAC with 577 yards rushing on the season, and many conference teams have played four games compared to the Tigers’ three. He’s rushed into the end zone six times.
“They’re giving Josh the ball a lot and in my opinion, that’s the best tailback in the league,” Harper said.
“That offense is balanced and we can’t just say we’re going to shut down this guy or that guy, because even if we do, somebody else is going to beat us.”
This season, the Broncos’ offense has tried going to the air more than in the past.
John Dostal, the Broncos’ quarterback, is second in the GPAC in total yards per game with 299.3. He’s passed for 767 yards on the year, while rushing for 131.
“They’re quarterback is mobile and has a good handle on their offense,” Cimpl said. “He’s making all the throws and rushing for 50 or more yards a game. We’ve got to make sure we’re containing them and eliminating big plays in order to be successful.”
Hastings also has the league’s third-best rusher in Keenen Ballage, who is averaging more than 100 yards rushing a game with 310 yards and three touchdowns.
Cimpl said for the Tigers’ defense to be successful, it needs to get off the field quickly.
“They don’t turn the ball over very much and we have to get the football back for our defense,” he said. “We want our offense to control the game, but we can’t do that if we aren’t on the field.”