Dakota Wesleyan University had a plan heading into Thursday’s fall scrimmage, and it didn’t involve its starters.
The Tigers’ defensive starters went through pre-game warmups and drills, but didn’t take a snap at the DWU practice field. Mitchell native Spencer Neugebauer, Canova native Luke Loudenburg and Daniel Libolt all received the same treatment -- only seeing action on non-contact special teams situations -- while starting offensive lineman T.J. Benton was held out due to a minor injury.
No score was kept, though the fall scrimmage still highlighted depth at key areas for the Tigers.
“Pretty quick turnaround in a scrimmage when it’s offense versus defense,” DWU coach Ross Cimpl said. “You don’t have that down time to get talked to on the sideline about a drive, series or play. I like that standpoint where guys have to go out and play.”
It also gave the coaching staff a chance to see its dueling quarterbacks, Zachary Lester and Mitchell native Kiel Nelson, albeit against the second and third-team defenses. Nelson trotted out for the scrimmage’s first drive, but Lester ended the night with more snaps and the only touchdown throws between the pair.
He connected with Chance Sorensen on his first throw, who sprinted past DWU’s secondary into the end zone. In one of the rare times DWU threw downfield, Lester connected with Garrett Determan, who beat Chamberlain native Jett Evans. Determan also snagged a one-handed touchdown grab over former Watertown teammate Adam DeJong.
Neither quarterback struggled with accuracy, though, as short passes and a heavy dose of its rushing attack was the offense’s theme. Both quarterbacks are still competing for the starting job when the Tigers open the season Aug. 29 at Dakota State University.
“Both guys bring a lot of different talents,” DWU offensive coordinator Loren Endsley said. “They root for each other, and that’s what you need out of a quarterback battle. Two guys who are pushing each other, but also wanting the best for each other.”
Lester had a couple of scrambles and designed runs. But DWU’s heavy dose of runs were split between TreVyon McDaniel and former Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan standout Jamin Arend, with Chayden Fitzsimmons also receiving a few carries. Arend exited the scrimmage with a minor leg injury.
While DWU’s defense struggled in the trenches at times -- consistently giving up four-to-five yard gains -- it also had a couple of sacks and limited big plays.
“Defensively, we’ve harped on guys in terms of big plays and staying over the top of routes,” Cimpl said. “If we’re going to give up those short passes -- obviously we want to tighten it up -- we’re going to try to make offenses throw it, catch it and do that consistently down the field.”
DeJong had a major role in helping the secondary force the offense to sustain drives. He broke up multiple passes and had a pick-six on a tipped pass, highlighting the importance of DWU’s fall scrimmage.
“I thought there were some young guys we put in a position to take a lot of reps,” Cimpl said. “Some young guys you want to see on a bigger stage. From that standpoint, a lot of guys that made a lot of plays.”
Notes: DWU’s starting offensive line is Benton, Mathew Davis, Zakk Ryherd, Logan Busch and Ben Gustad. … Special teams had three botched snaps and a missed extra point. … Quarterback Mahal Lee rushed for a touchdown. ... Jordan Etter connected with Preston Emerson for a score