Dakota Wesleyan snaps rivalry skid, takes care of Dakota State in home opener

Aug. 26—MITCHELL — After six straight losses to Dakota State, the Dakota Wesleyan football team was due to dominate in the rivalry series.

The Tigers did that in the first half, asserting a 21-0 lead and then held on for a 23-13 win over the visiting Trojans in front of 3,941 fans on Saturday night at Joe Quintal Field.

"There's been a lot of built-up anger, a lot of built-up motivation for this game," said graduate running back Jamin Arend after the win. "It's easy to get motivated for this one, against your rivals and after four weeks of fall camp. ... It feels really good."

DWU All-American safety Adam DeJong had a critical interception on the goal line as the Trojans were driving with 5:15 remaining to potentially get within one score, snuffing out DSU's best late chance to tighten the game. It was one of three takeaways from the Dakota Wesleyan defense on Saturday, plus DWU's Ethan Engen blocked a punt in the second quarter that resulted in a safety.

It was DWU's first win in the series since 2015, and the first time DWU won the the Chamber of Commerce traveling trophy between the two teams, which has been on the line each year since 2017.

The Tigers drove 14 plays on the opening drive and punched in the game's first touchdown with a 1-yard plunge from Arend. After a Trojans three and out, the Tigers took their shot and Austin Lee found Cole Holden down the left sideline for a 72-yard touchdown for a 14-0 lead in the opening 10 minutes.

"It was an unbelievable start," DWU coach Ross Cimpl said. "I don't know if we could have scripted a better start, honestly. Defensively, we got off the field with a few three-and-outs. We converted third downs and we didn't just score, we got touchdowns."

The Tigers made it 21-0 early in the second quarter with a 22-yard scoring connection from Lee to Kiel Nelson. In all, DWU converted its first six third downs of the game and operated smoothly in the passing game to break the contest open early.

"We knew were going to take shots early and try to open things up on the outside," Lee said. "Our guys at receiver made some big plays for us. ... We were ready for this game."

Trailing 23-7 at halftime, Dakota State scored on its first drive of the second half, a double pass from Austin Lake to Nathan Cook from 32 yards out to get within 10 points with a quarter and a half remaining. But DWU forced a missed field goal and got the DeJong interceptions on the next two Trojans possessions, both coming inside the DWU 25-yard line.

Lee finished with 243 yards passing on 14-for-23 attempts, finding Holden three times for 88 yards. Jamin Arend had 120 yards of total offense, with 73 yards on 26 carries and a touchdown, plus two key receptions in the first half for 47 yards. Victor Kniesche led the defense with eight total tackles and a sack, while Landon Ruesink had eight solo stops.

For DSU, quarterback Adin Jungers had 236 yards on 21-for-38 passing, plus rushed 13 times for 43 yards. Tyce Ortman rushed seven times for 31 yards and had a second-quarter touchdown. Cole Sylliaasen was the top receiving target with 91 yards on nine catches.

Dakota State outgained DWU 344-319 in total offense. DWU finished 7-for-13 on third downs and DSU had a 3-for-13 day on third down, while converting 4-of-5 fourth-down tries.

DWU (1-0) will host Hastings to open Great Plains Athletic Conference play at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 2. In the aftermath of the game, members of the team swarmed coach Ross Cimpl and jumped around in celebration and exaltation with the rivalry trophy. After an 0-7 start in 2022, the Tigers are in the win column in Game 1.

"We haven't experienced that before with this group," Cimpl said. And we have a lot of work to do going forward but it's a lot easier to get out of bed (Sunday) knowing you're on the other side of that first game."

Scoring summary

First quarter

DWU: Jamin Arend 1 run (Jaxon Patrick kick), 7:39

DWU: Cole Holden 72 pass from Austin Lee (Patrick kick), 5:19

Second quarter

DWU: Kiel Nelson 22 pass from Lee (Patrick kick), 14:08

DSU: Tyce Ortman 2 run (Aidan Jahns kick), 10:09

DWU: Safety, 4:46

Third quarter

DSU: Nathan Cook 32 pass from Austin Lake (pass failed), 7:51