This is music to Dakota Wesleyan University’s ears: the Tigers completed a spring football season.
One year after having its spring football season wiped away due to COVID-19, DWU capped off the 2021 spring season with a scrimmage on Saturday.
“I have no idea how many plays we ran today but it’s that many more than we ran in a scrimmage last year,” DWU coach Ross Cimpl said. “Whether it’s our defense making great plays or offense struggling at times. Those are still learning aspects that we have, that we can go off of that we didn’t have last year.”
The Tigers began their spring season on March 15 and they played Northwestern College in a controlled scrimmage on April 2 at Joe Quintal Field. The time spent on the field can’t be measured compared to what they missed out on last season.
“I think having a spring ball this year was very, very beneficial,” DWU linebacker Cody Reichelt said. “Especially on defense. All (fall) season we never really had our full defensive team and so having a spring ball to get reps and practice together really helps.”
On Saturday, the Tigers mixed and matched personnel during the hour and half scrimmage at their practice fields. There was no score kept in the offensive vs. defensive setting.
It was just another learning tool for the Tigers, who went 4-5 during the fall and won their final three games of the season.
“I really do think we improved from when we first started,” Reichelt said. “You could kind of tell our team chemistry was off a little bit because we never really played too much together and by the end of it now, I think we improved quite a bit. We still have a lot of work to do this summer and this fall camp.”
On paper, the defensive unit brings back more returners than the offense. Cimpl said the Tigers will return every starter, with the exception of lineman Caden Milmine.
“We have really two different dynamics within our team,” Cimpl said. “Defensively you have a lot of veteran guys and some really, really great players and we have great players offensively, too. I think we are much more consistent defensively right now.”
Offensively, the Tigers’ quarterback position will be up for grabs this fall. Kiel Nelson, Austin Lee and Jimmy Garewal split reps as they’re duking it out for the No. 1 spot. Nelson, a Mitchell High School graduate, saw the most action last season with five appearances.
But Cimpl said the three shared the same amount of reps all spring.
“We have to rotate them around and that’s what we did today and all spring,” Cimpl said. “I don’t think there’s one guy that’s really separated themselves. I think all those guys have abilities and areas they are probably best at and it’s all different for each guy.”
The Tigers will now conduct more spring and summer workouts before gearing up for the fall season.