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Tigers face Concordia in final home game

With two games left in the regular football season, the Tigers are in control of their own destiny.

After the dust settles today, the future of Dakota Wesleyan University and Concordia University will be clearer.

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The Great Plains Athletic Conference rivals face off at 1 p.m. Saturday at Joe Quintal Field in Mitchell.

DWU (6-3, 5-2 GPAC) and Concorida (6-3, 4-3 GPAC) are battling for position in the conference standings and hoping to make the NAIA national tournament, which features 16 teams. Both teams received votes in this week’s NAIA poll as well.

Second-year DWU head coach Ross Cimpl said the teams are evenly matched and looking forward to the game.

“It is at the end of the year in the GPAC and every game is big,” Cimpl said. “We face a really good team in Concordia and they are playing well right now. Both teams will be pretty focused on getting a win.”

Today also marks the final home game for the 12 seniors, including quarterback Jon Bane and wide receiver Anthony Muilenburg. Both players have had big careers and left marks on the DWU record books.

Bane, a Rogers, Texas, native, has played in 38 games for the Tigers and holds four records, including DWU’s all-time passing (8,915) and total offense (9,032) marks.

Muilenburg, a fifth-year receiver from Sioux Falls, holds records for receiving yards and receptions in a game. He is also DWU’s all-time leading pass catcher with 217 catches.

“It will be an emotional game because it is my last home game at Joe Quintal,” Bane said before practice Thursday. “I think it will be a really good game for us and to have an opportunity to play in a game that can have playoff implications is going to be good for us.”

Today, the quarterback and wide receiver will face one of their stiffest tests of the season in the Concordia defense. The Bulldogs come into the matchup with the conference’s best pass defense, allowing an average of just 136.3 passing yards per game. The Bulldog defense is led by defensive back Tait Sibbel, who has four interceptions and 49 tackles.

The Tigers are led by Bane and are averaging 225 passing yards per game. The fourth-year starter has completed 155 of 308 pass attempts for 2,021 yards, 20 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Muilenburg is Bane’s top target as he has hauled in 57 passes for 894 yards and 12 touchdowns.

If the DWU passing game is stymied, look for the Tigers to rely on running back Francois Barnaud.

The junior from Belle Fourche leads the NAIA in total rushing yards with a school-record 1,631 yards. He also has 13 touchdowns.

“They are probably the best offense we will go up against this season,” Concordia football coach Vance Winter said. “Look at the weapons they have on offense. We have to do our jobs defensively and try to make them one dimensional.”

Leading the way for Concordia is dual-threat quarterback Von Thomas. In nine games, Thomas has completed 156 of 271 passes for 1,594 yards and nine touchdowns while rushing for 448 yards and two touchdowns.

“Their quarterback is a huge X-factor for them,” Cimpl said. “He can run the ball, they design runs for him and he can really hurt you with his legs.”

Running back Bryce Collins is the Bulldogs’ leading rusher with 571 yards and 10 touchdowns on 147 carries. The Concordia receivers are led by Chavarius Curry-Felix. Curry-Felix has caught 23 passes for 293 yards and three touchdowns.

The Tiger defense will look to linebackers Brady Bonte and Anthony Cervantes for support in the run and pass game. Bonte, a sophomore, leads DWU in tackles and sacks with 77 and six, respectively. Cervantes, a junior, has 55 tackles and two sacks.