Dakota Wesleyan football closes out season with win over Mount Marty
The Tigers finished the season at 2-9
MITCHELL — It’s one of coach Ross Cimpl’s favorite traditions.
For the eighth time in the last 11 years, Dakota Wesleyan sent its seniors on the field in victory formation to kneel out the clock in the final home game of the season and close out a 38-34 win over Mount Marty on Saturday.
It’s something Cimpl said he does every time DWU has a chance to kneel out the clock in the final home contest of the year, and something that he doesn't know if words can do justice.
“For those (seniors) that end their last game on the field together with a win,” Cimpl said, “I don't know if you can describe that.”
To get the seniors into victory formation, though, it wasn’t an easy task. It took a late interception from the staple of the defense — Adam DeJong, who came up with his seventh interception, which is tied for the NAIA lead. The redshirt junior came up with another big play for the Tigers, intercepting a pass with 2:10 left to halt Mount Marty’s drive and give the ball back to the offense.
From there, Jamin Arend picked up a pair of first downs with his legs to cap off his 186-yard, three-touchdown day.
“They knew we were going to give (Arend) the ball. We knew we were going to give him the ball. He knew he was going to get the ball,” Cimpl said of the final drive. “There's definitely a comfort level when you feel like, ‘Alright, he's going to get the job done.’”
The Tigers opened up the game fast, scoring on their first offensive play when Austin Lee tossed his first of two touchdowns, connecting with Kiel Nelson on a 46-yard strike. Arend tacked on a score after that to put DWU up 14-0 before the Lancers knotted the game up at 14.
The Tigers excelled in what Cimpl described as critical situations, an area he’s emphasized all season. The biggest, though, came in the form of a blocked punt with the Tigers trailing in the fourth quarter that DWU returned to the 1-yard line to set up the eventual game-winning touchdown on a plunge from Arend.
“That's an unbelievable, game-changing play,” Cimpl said of the blocked punt. “We did a much better job in those critical situations.”
DWU went 3-for-5 on fourth-down tries and put up 384 yards as a team, led by Arend’s 186 yards on the ground. Lee threw for 177 yards on 13-for-21 passing with an interception, and found Cole Holden five times for 54 yards and a score. The Tigers averaged 5.6 yards per play and had just one punt on the afternoon.
Part of the efficiency of the offense Cimpl credited to the week of practice. Cimpl said things got “chippy” at Wednesday’s practice because of the physicality and it translated to tough yardage on fourth downs on Saturday.
For the Lancers, Ken Gay completed 18 of his 30 pass attempts for 276 yards and three touchdowns — two of which went to Rex Ryken who had six catches for 130 yards — with an interception. Both Isaiah Thompson and Tyree Morrison ran for a score for Mount Marty.
Mount Marty closes out its season on Saturday, Nov. 12 when it returns home to face Jamestown, while DWU ends its season at 2-9 with the win.
“We needed (the win) for all of our guys to justify the message that we've been saying,” Cimpl said. “In order for us to make progress, we have to do things a certain way. And when you do those things, you're going to see success and to me, it really just justifies all the work that they're doing.”