Apr. 9—Spring football is back in the air.
After having its 2020 spring season wiped away due to COVID-19, the Dakota Wesleyan University football team is relishing its time on the field.
"It was a challenge," DWU coach Ross Cimpl said about having last spring season taken away. "I think our players handled it as best they could and I think our coaches handled it as best they could. That was uncharted waters and nobody really knew what to do."
Now, the Tigers are navigating through a regular spring season. DWU started its spring season on March 15 and it played Northwestern College in a scrimmage on April 2 at Joe Quintal Field.
The Red Raiders' coaching staff contacted Cimpl about playing a controlled scrimmage as they were preparing for the NAIA playoffs.
Cimpl eagerly accepted as it allowed the Tigers a chance to compete against someone other than themselves.
"Our guys got to compete and compete against a good team and we got to do it at home," Cimpl said. "There were so many positives that came out of that. I know their coach was excited about it afterward and we thought it was a great thing for both teams."
Offensively, the Tigers' quarterback position will be up for grabs this fall. Kiel Nelson, Austin Lee and Jimmy Garewal are splitting reps as previous starter Zachary Lester exhausted his eligibility. Nelson, a Mitchell High School graduate, saw the most action last season with five appearances.
"Those guys are battling it out all spring and all three of those guys took reps at the quarterback spot in the scrimmage and did some good things and did some things I think we can learn from and focus on," Cimpl said.
At the running back position, former Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan standout Jamin Arend is "the No. 1 guy," said Cimpl after rushing for 523 yards and three touchdowns last season.
The Tigers will need to replace wide receivers Spencer Neugebauer and Preston Emerson, along with offensive lineman Dawson Kerzman and Dayne Clark.
Defensively, DWU has more returners and spots are more defined than the offensive side of the ball. Cimpl said the Tigers will return every starter, with the exception of lineman Caden Milmine.
The group of returners is highlighted by Cody Reichelt, Sam Kretschmar, Joshua Garry, Dominic Warmbein, Trey Bohlmann, Jacob Schafer, Romeon Greve and Samuel Henderson.
"We have a lot of guys on that side of the ball that have a lot of experience," Cimpl said. "So seeing those guys fit in together and play against somebody else before our first game was fun to see."
In total, the Tigers have 72 players on the roster and another 39 have joined the Tigers during the signing period.
"We are excited about those numbers," Cimpl said. "We are excited about the group that we have and it's a nice mix of some upperclassmen and some young guys that are moving forward. I think just where we are number wise, we are in a really good spot."
DWU will host an intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday, April 17 at 11 a.m. at its practice fields.