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DWU, Morningside to clash in pivotal GPAC contest

The Great Plains Athletic Conference title race will become much clearer after today. No. 14 Dakota Wesleyan will host No. 5 Morningside College at 1 p.m. today at Joe Quintal Field in a huge GPAC football battle. The Tigers are 6-2 overall and 4...

The Great Plains Athletic Conference title race will become much clearer after today.

No. 14 Dakota Wesleyan will host No. 5 Morningside College at 1 p.m. today at Joe Quintal Field in a huge GPAC football battle.

The Tigers are 6-2 overall and 4-1 in league play, while the Mustangs are 6-1 overall and 5-0 in the GPAC. If Morningside wins, it would give the Mustangs some breathing room in the conference standings, with two games remaining.

"It is our biggest game so far this year," Morningside coach Steve Ryan said. "I think DWU is playing fantastic football right now, a very talented team. They have got one conference loss, so this is kind of in some ways, for the conference championship."

If DWU wins, it would give three teams in the GPAC one league loss apiece. Doane University enters today's game against Dordt College with a 4-1 conference record.

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"Obviously, you get to the end of the season and you have goals that you want to accomplish and things that you want to accomplish," DWU coach Ross Cimpl said. "Then you have got Morningside coming to town, one of the best teams in the country and a huge challenge for anybody that they play."

The Mustangs will definitely present a huge challenge for the Tigers. Morningside has been one of the most consistent teams in recent NAIA history, with 12 consecutive postseason appearances in the playoffs. The Mustangs have advanced to at least the national semifinals each of the last four years.

"They are a team that doesn't make mistakes," Cimpl said. "They force other teams into making mistakes and they are obviously very talented, very well coached and when they see those mistakes happening, they take advantage of them."

Today's game features another pair of strong offensive units. Morningside has the nation's top offense, averaging 583 yards per game and second in scoring offense at 56.9 points per game. DWU is ranked No. 5 in total offensive yards with 534 per game, with quarterback Dillon Turner powering the unit. The junior is leading the country in total offensive yards with 3,111.

"Offensively, everything centers around Turner," Ryan said. "I think he is just having an outstanding year in terms of running and throwing the football and the whole offense just pretty much runs through him."

Morningside's offense starts with running back Tyler Kavan, who last week, broke the school record for total touchdowns in a career (55).

"He does a great job of getting the ball into the end zone and has played well each of the last two games," Ryan said.

Morningside quarterback Trent Solsma is 105-of-162 with 1,612 yards, 17 touchdowns and three interceptions.

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The two squads have solid defensive units, as well. Morningside leads the GPAC in scoring defense (12.3), total defense (229.9), rushing defense (108.9) and pass defense (121).

"Offensively, it is just going to be able to control the line of scrimmage," DWU running back John Fabrizius said. "They have got a great defensive line coming at us right away."

DWU's defense is coming off a strong performance against Northwestern College. The Tigers had five sacks and forced three fumbles against the Red Raiders.

"I think their defense is really playing with great energy right now," Ryan said. "They have done a great job of creating and making turnovers, especially in that last game against Northwestern. They made big plays and they made plays when they needed them."

It will be Senior Day for the Tigers, but they will be without senior wide receiver Kodi Larson. He injured his collarbone last week and Cimpl said he is out for the season.

"There is a guy who worked his tail off for four years," Cimpl said. "He is going to handle it like a professional and be very mature about it. We all kind of feel for him."

Cimpl said running back Jonny Withrow (hand) is probable to play today.

No. 5 Morningside College (6-1) at No. 14 Dakota Wesleyan (6-2)

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When/Where: 1 p.m. today at Joe Quintal Field in Mitchell.

Last meeting: Morningside College defeated Dakota Wesleyan 76-20 last season in Mitchell.

Coaches: DWU's Ross Cimpl, fifth year; Morningside's Steve Ryan, 14th year.

Forecast: 54 degrees and cloudy with a slight chance for a rain shower. Winds at northeast at 10-to-20 mph.

Notes: Cimpl's career record is 36-15, putting him third on the DWU all-time wins list. Cimpl is two wins behind DWU great Bud Dougherty. . . . Today is the 32nd meeting between Dakota Wesleyan and Morningside College. The Mustangs lead the all-time series 24-6-1. The Tigers last win over Morningside was in 2002. . . . Morningside's lone loss this season was to NCAA Division III power University of Wisconsin-Whitewater (35-21).

Dakota Wesleyan University Projected Starters

(Position, name, year, height, weight, hometown)

Offense

QB: Dillon Turner, jr., 6-1, 220, Salem, Ark.

RB: John Fabrizius, jr., 6-1, 215, Casper, Wyo.

WR: Hayden Adams, jr., 6-2, 190, Villa Park, Ill.

WR: Dustin Livingston, sr., 6-1, 190, Irene

FB: Payne Ahrens, so., 6-4, 225, Gretna, Neb.

TE: Tyler Fortuna, jr., 6-5, 235, Gillette, Wyo.

LT: Trevor Wietzema, so., 6-3, 285, Worthington, Minn.

LG: Zach Duin, so., 6-1, 260, Minneapolis

C: Levi Rozeboom, so., 6-2, 265, Inwood, Iowa.

RG: Damon Macleary, jr., 6-1, 260, Cheyenne, Wyo.

RT: Cody Cook, so., 6-3, 260, Harrisburg.

Defense

DL: Brady Mudder, sr., 6-3, 230, Garretson

DL: Cohl Ratermann, sr., 6-5, 315, Colome

DL: Zack Clement, so., 6-4, 230, Hartwick, Iowa

LB: Nathan Dahl, sr., 6-1, 205, Shelby, Neb.

LB:Tyler Wagner, fr., 6-0, 220, Webster

LB: Adam Bormann, sr., 6-0, 230, Stickney

LB: Dillon Rork, so., 6-3, 210, Grand Island, Neb.

CB: Cody Bonte, sr., 6-1, 190, Garretson.

S: Trey DeCroock, so., 6-2, 190, Sioux Falls

S: Charlie LaRoche, jr., 5-11, 200, Lower Brule

CB: Matt Jensen, sr., 5-11, 170, Viborg.

Special Teams

K: Gus Haskell, sr., 5-10, 175, Dell Rapids

P: Sam Naasz, fr., 6-1, 210, Winner

H: Luke Stephens, sr., 6-2, 175, Chico, Calif.

LS: Brady Mudder, sr., 6-3, 230, Garretson

KR: Hunter Young, fr., 6-0, 190, Tyndall

PR: Dustin Livingston, sr., 6-1, 190, Irene

Morningside College Projected Starters

(Position, name, year, height, weight, hometown)

Offense

QB: Trent Solsma, so., 6-1, 215, Dakota Dunes

RB: Tyler Kavan, sr., 5-11, 210, Weston, Neb.

FB: Zach Knicky, jr., 6-2, 215, Papillion, Neb.

WR: Jason Vander Kooi, sr., 6-3, 205, Hinton, Iowa

WR: Tanner Ver Steeg, jr., 6-0, 180, Little Rock, Iowa

TE: Trae Bradburn, jr., 6-2, 255, Fort Calhoun, Neb.

LT: Blake Frank, sr., 6-3, 285, Mapleton, Minn.

LG: Andrew Metzger, jr., 6-3, 270, Rock Rapids, Iowa

C: Austin Anfinson, sr., 6-1, 270, Hinton, Iowa

RG: Nate Flaherty, so., 6-4, 275, Norfolk, Neb.

RT: Garrett Temme, fr., 6-6, 265, Petersburg, Neb.

Defense

DL: Luke Gibbs, jr., 6-3, 245, Maxwell, Iowa

DL: Chase Reis, so., 6-1, 245, Grand Island, Neb.

DL: Austin Allen, sr., 6-4, 250, Spencer, Iowa

DL: Nate Crnkovich, sr., 6-4, 245, Papillion, Neb.

LB: Logan Rozeboom, jr., 5-11, 215, Hartley, Iowa

LB: Luke Grooters, sr., 5-11, 220, Rock Rapids, Iowa

LB: Caden McDonald, jr., 5-11, 210, Logan, Iowa

CB: Xavier Spann, so., 6-1, 185, Lakeland, Fla.

S: Britton Barrier, jr., 5-11, 205, Neola, Iowa

S: Taylor James, sr., 5-10, 205, Westfield, Iowa

CB: Darrian Turk, sr., 5-8, 170, Silsbee, Texas

Special Teams

K: Jared Amundson, so., 6-3, 220, Sioux City, Iowa

P: Spencer Wyant, so., 6-1, 205, Sergeant Bluff, Iowa

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