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With uncertainty surrounding playoffs, Tigers focused on Dordt

Everything will be on the line for Dakota Wesleyan University's football team when it takes the field against Dordt College at 1 p.m. today in Sioux Center, Iowa.

Everything will be on the line for Dakota Wesleyan University's football team when it takes the field against Dordt College at 1 p.m. today in Sioux Center, Iowa.

The situation is a must-win, if the Tigers want to qualify for the NAIA playoffs, but even a victory might not be enough.

Currently sitting at No. 15 in the NAIA coaches poll, the 8-2 Tigers will have to be in the top 16 teams in the rankings to earn an at-large bid. If another team is not in the top 16 but is a conference champion, it may earn an automatic berth for winning the conference, bumping up the ranking the Tigers would need to qualify for the playoffs.

"We've talked to a lot of people about it, and we're just not sure," DWU head coach Ross Cimpl said. "I think the best part about this whole thing is that we are able to talk about it. We're in this conversation, and we have a shot. Whether it's a really good shot, or complete long shot, I don't know. We don't know how other teams are going to shake out or where we will end up in the final poll.

"In four years' time for us to be a realistic contender in the playoffs, it's nice to be in that conversation," he added.

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If the Tigers beat Dordt College, they will find out their playoff fate at 4 p.m. on Sunday when the NAIA 16-team playoff field is decided.

"In the past, we always looked at the regular season schedule and we planned our day to hand in to hand in our equipment," Cimpl said. "Our season was over at that point. But now to be in this conversation, that's what we've wanted all along."

On paper, at least, the Tigers will be favored to beat 2-8 Dordt, but head coach Greg Youngblood isn't going to lie down and let the Tigers have a shot at the playoffs.

"We need to get a great effort out of our guys," Youngblood said. "We want to send our seniors out with a win, and we know we're going to have to do that against a really good Dakota Wesleyan team."

Cimpl said he isn't buying Dordt will be an easy challenge, adding the Defenders have played the Tigers tough in previous years.

"The last couple years especially, it's been a closer game from what people from the outside said it should be or whatever," Cimpl said. "For us, we have to execute, play well and score points. They're going to be on a fast surface, and that could cause problems for us with their triple option."

When/Where: 1 p.m. today in Sioux Center, Neb.

Last meeting: DWU defeated Dordt College 44-10 on Nov. 15 at Joe Quintal Field in Mitchell.

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Coaches: DWU's Ross Cimpl, fourth year; Dordt's Greg Youngblood, fourth year

Forecast: 61 degrees and sunny with southwest winds of 12 mph

Notes: Dordt's lone Great Plains Athletic Conference win was against Midland, a 24-17 victory on Oct. 24. ... The DWU senior class of 2015 has set a record for most wins (29) in a four-year span. ... Dordt is coming off a 62-31 loss over Hastings. ... DWU kept its season alive last week with a 17-10 win over Concordia in Mitchell. ... DWU quarterback Dillon Turner ranks fourth in the nation in total offense with 2,750 total yards accumulated this season. ... The Tigers rank fifth in the nation in total sacks by a defense with 32.

Dakota Wesleyan University projected starters

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

Offense

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

RB: Jonathon Withrow, fr., 5-10, 170, Kimball, Neb.

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WR: Hayden Adams, so., 6-2, 185, Villa Park, Ill.

WR: Kodi Larson, jr., 6-2, 205, Tyndall

WR: Dustin Livingston, jr., 6-0, 190, Irene

TE: Tyler Fortuna, so., 6-4, 220, Gillette, Wyo.

LT: Calvin Hunhoff, sr., 6-3, 260, Bertrand, Neb.

LG: Taylor Haley, sr., 6-0, 275, Winner

C: Jon Knight, sr., 5-11, 265, Pocatello, Idaho

RG: Zach Duin, fr., 6-0, 255, Minneapolis, Minn.

RT: Trevor Wietzema, fr., 6-3, 285, Worthington, Minn.

Defense

DL: Brady Mudder, jr., 6-3, 240, Garretson

DL: Cohl Ratermann, jr. 6-5, 305, Colome

DL: Sam Kiger, sr., 6-4, 255, Irene

OLB: Brady Bonte, sr., 6-2, 220, Garretson

ILB: Austin Van Poole, so., 5-10, 225, Yuba City, Calif.

ILB: Adam Bormann, jr., 6-0, 225, Stickney

OLB: Dillon Rork, fr., 6-1, 205, Grand Island, Neb.

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

S: Cody Reder, jr., 6-0, 185, Philip

S: Charlie LaRoche, so., 5-10, 205, Lower Brule

CB: Trevin Island, so., 5-10, 160, Rialto, Calif.

Special teams

K/P: Daniel Porter, sr., 5-11, 190, Plattsmouth, Neb.

H: Luke Stephens, jr., 6-2, 185, Chico, Calif.

LS: Brady Mudder, jr., 6-3, 240, Garretson

KR/PR: Dustin Livingston, jr., 6-0, 190, Irene

Dordt College projected starters

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

Offense

QB: Taylan Seaman, so., 6-1, 190, Sugar Fair, Texas

RB: Loken Vande Vegte, sr., 5-9, 195, Orange City, Iowa

RB: Xavier Caffee, so., 5-6, 165, Lancaster, Texas

RB: Kenny Lewis so., 5-6, 170, San Tan Valley, Ariz.

WR: Kyle Brummel, sr., 6-1, 210, Rock Valley, Iowa

WR: Jason Miller, so., 6-1, 185, Byron Center, Mich.

LT: Dillon Stevens, so., 6-3, 245, Greenville, Texas

LG: Jacob Cook so., 6-0, 290, Council Bluffs, Iowa

C: Riley Scharper, jr., 6-0, 260, Forest City, Iowa

RG: Griffin Pelot, so., 6-0, 270, Escondido, Calif.

RT: Rickey Nelson, so., 6-0, 260, Lancaster, Texas

Defense

DL: Ben Bajema, so., 6-5, 240, Piano, Texas

DL: Andrew Cameron, sr., 5-9, 265, Greenwood, Neb.

DL: Curtis Emery, jr., 5-11, 260, Alvin, Texas

DL: Tebi Njilefack, fr., 6-2, 220, Cypress, Texas

LB: Alex Vasquez, so., 5-11, 200, Carrollton, Texas

LB: Danny Stevens, so., 6-0, 210, Ord, Neb.

LB: Gerrit Wybenga, jr., 6-1, 190, Burley, Idaho

CB: Justin Banks, fr., 5-10, 165, Prince George's Island, Maryland

S: Josiah Kotte, fr., 6-1, 190, Kuna, Idaho

S: Casey Byker, fr., 5-11, 175, Hudsonville, Mich.

CB: Cole McClain, sr., 5-10, 175, Miller

Special teams

P: Heath Bonestroo, sr., 6-2, 185, Hull, Iowa

K: Jeff Paepke, fr., 6-0, 220, Brookfield, Wis.

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