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Turner named GPAC player of the year for second straight year

Dakota Wesleyan's Dillon Turner (15) drops back to pass during a game against Briar Cliff Oct. 21 at Joe Quintal Field. (Matt Gade / Republic)

For a second straight season, Dakota Wesleyan University quarterback Dillon Turner has been named the Great Plains Athletic Conference’s offensive player of the year, the conference announced Tuesday.

Turner is the only player in DWU history to win the award and the only player in GPAC history to win the award outright twice. Turner threw for 3,400 yards, ran for 926 yards and had 48 total touchdowns and led the nation in total offensive yards per game with 393.3 yards during the regular season.

“It shows the respect coaches had for me in the conference,” Turner said about the award. “It’s a goal you set at the beginning of the year. It was probably more deserving to (Morningside quarterback) Trent Solsma. But being a senior, having a pretty good year statistically and how the coaches respect me as a player, helped me.”

A 6-foot-1 senior from Salem, Arkansas, Turner tied the GPAC record for passing touchdowns in a game with seven and owns the conference records for career passing yards with 10,704 yards and career passing touchdowns with 115. He also holds the school records for single-season total touchdowns with 48, single-season passing with 3,400 yards, along with career passing and passing touchdowns. Turner ranks third on the DWU all-time list in career rushing yards with 3,215 yards, and ranks first in career total offense with 13,919 yards.

“It means a lot to get it two years in a row,” Turner said. “It’s a team award. You have to have your teammates and your coaches to accomplish it. I can’t thank them enough.”

Turner also made the all-conference team as a first-team selection at quarterback and was joined by senior wide receiver Hayden Adams and offensive linemen Trevor Wietzema and Levi Rozeboom. On defense, Dillon Rork was named a first-team all-conference selection.

Adams, hailing from Villa Park, Illinois, had 1,472 yards receiving on 81 catches and 18 touchdowns per game. Adams led the nation in total receiving yards and on a per game basis with 133.8 per contest, while finishing second nationally in receptions. Adams leaves DWU with the school records for receptions and receiving yards in a game, thanks to his 18 catches and 254 yards at Doane Sept. 16. He also holds the career receiving record with 3,243 yards, while holding the single-season highs for yards and receptions in Tigers history.

Wietzema, a junior from Worthington, Minnesota, and Rozeboom, a senior from Inwood, Iowa, helped block for an offense that finished the season second in the country with 560.7 yards per game and ranked in the top-10 nationally in first downs per game (27.6), 3rd-down conversions (50.3), total pass offense (3,499 yards) and total scoring offense (480 points, 43.6 points per game).

Rork, from Grand Island, Nebraska, had 68 total tackles, including 44 solo stops. He also had 11.5 tackles for loss, three sacks and two interceptions.

Sophomore linebacker and Kimball native Eathan Gaulke — who had 8.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss on the year — was named a second-team all-conference selection on the defense. Defensive lineman Manny Christopher and defensive back Charlie LaRoche received honorable mention consideration.

Morningside claimed the other major conference awards Tuesday, with linebacker Caden McDonald named defensive player of the year and Steve Ryan picked as the conference coach of the year. The Mustangs won the GPAC title for an seventh straight year in 2017.

DWU finished the season 6-5 and fifth in the conference standings.