DWU football looks to bounce back after rough Week 1

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ORANGE CITY, Iowa -- For the second straight week, the Dakota Wesleyan University football team is on the road, and it faces one of its toughest challenges of the season.

While there isn’t a national NAIA football poll this season, perennial power Northwestern (Iowa) surely would be among the top ranked teams again this year. It was tied with two-time defending national champion Morningside (Iowa) heading into the fourth quarter last week, but fell 45-31.

A week after DWU lost 45-7 at Hastings (Neb.), the Tigers need all areas to improve against a Great Plains Athletic Conference contender. They’ll be without star linebacker and Mitchell native Cody Reichelt, which will force a “next man up” mentality.

“If they’re a backup, prepare as a starter. We have to have that mindset,” DWU coach Ross Cimpl said. “For a bunch of young guys, sometimes we forget about that. We see where we’re at on the depth chart and it’s like, ‘Well, that’s where I’ll always be.’ It’s as easy as a helmet popping off in a game, and all of a sudden you’re the next guy up.”

Containing Kooima

Tyson Kooima presents as many challenges as any quarterback DWU will face this season. He passed for 447 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions, while rushing for 114 yards and a score against Morningside a week ago. He’s an athlete disguised as a quarterback.


“He’s an unbelievable athlete. He’s incredibly athletic,” Cimpl said about the four-year starter. “… He’s played in big games. He’s won big games. You don’t put up 500 yards of offense on the road against the two-time defending national champs if you’re not an unbelievable player.”

He’s athletic enough to scramble if the Tigers drop back in coverage, or accurate enough as a passer to pinpoint throws to a bevy of targets before a pass rush gets to him. Shane Solberg (162 yards) and Cade Moser (132) both caught at least six passes last week.

In three starts against DWU, Kooima has averaged 283 passing yards and 56.3 rushing yards per game to go with a 10-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

“In my opinion, to be as successful as possible against him, you have to keep him guessing a little bit,” Cimpl said. “Maybe give a different look to make him think because once he gets in a rhythm, he’s one of the best I’ve ever seen.”

Limiting penalties, drops

The Tigers committed six penalties for 46 yards against Hastings. They had six or more penalties four times last year, including eight against Northwestern. The penalties, paired with two turnovers and too many drops led to a sloppy opening week.

“I think in terms of mental mistakes -- offsides penalties -- you never know how an outcome of a game can change if you catch a ball here or jump offsides there,” Cimpl said. “All those things add up.”

Having fewer drops would significantly help an offense that had 10 first downs and struggled to sustain long drives after poor starting field position. DWU’s deepest position group is at receiver, though.

“I don’t think we put our best foot forward in our first game,” Cimpl said. “Some of that’s on our coaches and myself to put guys in a better spot. Some of it’s on our players.”


Changes at linebacker

DWU didn’t make any drastic changes to its two-deeps heading into Week 2, but Mitchell native Max Schoenfelder and Mahal Lee were both inserted into the starting lineup. Schoenfelder and Lee finished with six and two tackles, respectively.

Lee transferred from Arizona Christian as a quarterback last year, but wasn’t among the three-quarterback battle during fall camp. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound redshirt sophomore moved to linebacker after the season concluded. At Arizona Christian, he played safety, so it’s not his first time playing defense, but he could see his role remain increased as Reichelt’s return is without a timetable.

“After last season, he knew he’d move over there,” Cimpl said. “… He’s a big body and a guy we’re looking forward to. Our quarterback room was getting crowded, so it just kind of worked out.”

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