Adam DeJong intercepts three passes, returns two for touchdown to lift DWU football to first win of season

Dakota Wesleyan picked up its first win of the season against Briar Cliff thanks to four interceptions as a team and three from Adam DeJong

Dakota Wesleyan's Adam DeJong (3) celebrates with his teammates after a returning an interception for a touchdown against Briar Cliff during an NAIA football game on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022, at Joe Quintal Field.
Zech Lambert / Mitchell Republic
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MITCHELL — Adam DeJong played what he called the probably best game of his life.

He intercepted three passes and returned two of them for a touchdown to help spur Dakota Wesleyan University football to a 31-24 win over Briar Cliff for the Tigers’ first win of the season.

The second of his two touchdowns broke a 17-all tie and gave DWU a lead it wouldn’t surrender.

“It was unreal,” DeJong said. “I had a couple blockers in front of me, (I) was able to read them and the ball just found my hands. It was pretty special.”

After going to the locker room at half up 17-3, Briar Cliff came storming back in the third quarter, knotting the game at 17. Before DeJong’s second pick six of the game, DWU turned the ball over in the fourth quarter on the Briar Cliff 15-yard line after a fumbled snap. The fumble was similar to DWU’s game last week where a late fumble plagued the Tigers.


“A little deja vu,” DWU coach Ross Cimpl said. “That’s what I said, ‘We got to get out of our own heads.’ That’s a mistake on us. … That’s an ‘us’ thing, and those ‘us’ mistakes can’t happen.”

Briar Cliff's Gilbert Bujanda (44) recovers a fumble against Dakota Wesleyan during an NAIA football game on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022, at Joe Quintal Field.
Zech Lambert / Mitchell Republic

However, DeJong’s interception — which was one of four turnovers the Tigers forced as opposed to the one they gave up — halted the ensuing Briar Cliff drive and put the Tigers on top for good.

On top of winning the turnover battle, DWU dominated the fourth-down battle, converting on both of its tries and stopping all three of Briar Cliff’s attempts. Cimpl cited the wind when mentioning how crucial it was to convert two fourth downs in the third quarter.

“We were going into the wind and they were having some success with the wind in the third quarter,” Cimpl said. “We don’t convert those, now they have a shorter field and the wind and momentum.”

The Tigers also stymied a Briar Cliff passing attack that was tied for 16th in the country in yards per game at 255 yards coming into the contest. DWU held the Chargers to 190 yards through the air despite not generating much pressure, an issue that’s plagued DWU all season.

DeJong said that teams have utilized quick passes against the Tigers, not allowing time for the defensive line to get to the quarterback. However, Cimpl said DWU was disguising more pressures and dropping more players back in hopes of making the quarterback hold the ball a bit longer.

Of the Chargers’ 190 passing yards, 179 came from starting quarterback Luke Davies, who completed 10-of-26 passing attempts with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Austin Lee got the start for DWU under center after Connor Drake went down with a season-ending injury in the Tigers’ previous game. Lee went 13-for-22 for 128 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions.

Dakota Wesleyan's Austin Lee takes a snap against Briar Cliff during an NAIA football game on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022, at Joe Quintal Field.
Zech Lambert / Mitchell Republic

“We still have some work to do to get (Lee) back to 100%,” Cimpl said. “But overall, he stayed pretty clean today.”


Kiel Nelson was the recipient of Lee’s lone touchdown pass, while Jamin Arend scored for DWU as a part of his 28 rushes for 102 yards. For Briar Cliff, Asante Anglin rushed 15 times for 116 yards and a score, while Kobe Johnson and Tim Brown both caught touchdowns.

The Tigers (1-7, 1-6 GPAC) remain home for their penultimate home game of the season against Midland on Saturday, Oct. 22, while Briar Cliff (1-7, 1-6 GPAC) has a week off before traveling to Northwestern on Saturday, Oct. 29.

“This feeling never gets old,” DeJong said of the Tigers’ first win of the season. “It’ll never get old my entire life. So this is awesome.”

Zech Lambert is a sports reporter for the Mitchell Republic. He graduated from Penn State University in May 2022 and began at the Mitchell Republic in July 2022. He can be reached at or on Twitter @Zech_Lambert.
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