Dakota Wesleyan football wraps up spring practice emphasizing competition level
Throughout the spring, the Tigers had several players emerge on both sides of the ball, with those talents on display during the intrasquad scrimmage.
MITCHELL — The first chapter of the 2023 football season wrapped up, in earnest, for the Dakota Wesleyan football program on Saturday afternoon with the annual spring game.
According to head coach Ross Cimpl, it was a productive spring for the Tigers, who are looking to turn the page from a 2-9 campaign last fall.
“We're in a situation where we have guys who were technically seniors coming back with an extra year of eligibility,” Cimpl explained. “We need to rely on those guys for leadership and experience and stability. And then we have a lot of young guys that had a really good spring.
“Also, we’re healthy at the end of the spring game,” he added. “I don't think we had any major injuries, and that's priority No. 1.”
Originally slated to wrap up the week before Easter, inclement weather pushed back DWU’s spring football timeline by about one week. The Tigers began practicing three times a week shortly after returning from spring break and went for approximately four and a half weeks ahead of the spring game.
During the intrasquad scrimmage, Cimpl was pleased overall with the Tigers’ performance, pointing to a few specific elements as major positives.
On offense, they manufactured several big plays, both through the air and on the ground. Further, they were able to sustain drives and move the chains throughout the afternoon, with multiple backs and receiving targets getting in on the action.
Among the emerging offensive standouts from the spring, Cimpl identified running backs Logan Serck and Koby Kayser and receivers Preston Nedved and Cole Holden.
Opposite, the defense held firm several times after allowing the offense to enter the red zone and also created two turnovers. Speed was on display throughout the afternoon, as they strung out plays to the sideline with regularity and chased down ball carriers from behind on multiple plays to prevent a score.
“Scrimmages are always a double-edged sword. … If it's a positive for our defense, it's a negative for our offense,” Cimpl said. “We turned the ball over a couple of times, but on the flip side of that, you want your defense taking the ball away.
“There were some big chunk plays that our offense had where guys made some big plays, and defensively they had to respond in the red zone,” he continued. “Overall, I thought it was a competitive day, and there are things we can highlight and focus on to get better at.”
Cimpl pointed out linebackers Joe Van Overschelde and Gavin Haselhorst and defensive back Mikey Hart as young defensive players who impressed during the spring.
As the academic year winds down, practice has concluded until the Tigers ramp up in the late summer. In the meantime, workouts and other football activities will continue. Following the spring game, Cimpl’s message to his team was clear: Responsibility rests with the players, individually, to set DWU down a path toward success in the fall of 2023.
“We'll take a little bit of time off after school (the spring semester) and then hit it hard again middle of May and into June and be ready to go,” Cimpl said. “… There's a bow on spring ball, and now there’s work to do from now until fall camp.”