The Blue Hawks closed their regular season on November 7 with a 52-34 victory over Presentation College, securing their sixth consecutive NSAA conference title, along with their sixth unbeaten season ever in the 46-year schedules.
Six months later, the No. 12 Blue Hawks lace the cleats, put on the pads and buckle up their helmets for their sixth consecutive appearance in the NAIA tournament, aiming to outperform the 2018 Blue Hawks, who fell into the quarter-finals.
For Pete Stanton, who is in his seventh season as head coach of the Blue Hawks football team, the adjustment to prepare his players for aggressive fall football in the spring months has been purely diverse.
It’s definitely been different, it’s been unique, but our guys really embraced it, Stanton said. Usually we wouldn’t condition that much in the spring. We just really pushed them, and they had a great January and February getting themselves ready, but now we know it’s time to go.
We’ve really spent a lot of time with our (starters) preparing and preparing those guys for a playoff experience and doing our thing to get us ready for that first game. Our guys just adjusted well, Stanton added.
With no games scheduled until the official win-or-go-home tournament kicks off, and expectation of the upcoming squad grows, Stanton and the other coaches have found different ways to keep the team active while getting some action and a first taste . of fights with practices you’d normally see after the fall of the season, and scrimmages.
During the first scrimmage, Dickinson State met Minot State for the first time in 11 years in an indoor facility last week to get the players officially active and the adrenaline pumping into the game. While the Blue Hawks were able to play nine games in the regular season, the Beavers’ season never made it to the field after being canceled due to COVID.
It was just good to see someone else and see a team you would never see during the (regular season), and our guys just did a good job of executing and running around and flying to the football, said Stanton . I thought our guys were doing some really cool things so it was really good to get into the gaming atmosphere and play against those guys.
The scrimmage against the Beavers won’t be the last of the Blue Hawks, with Dickinson State preparing for a final roadside scrimmage in Jamestown against NSAA conference opponent Dakota State before revealing who their upcoming opponent will be in the tournament.
The Blue Hawks ended the 2020 season leading the NSAA in scoring points per game with an average of 33.9, total attacking distance per game with 424.7, defense per game with 14.4 and point earnings per game with 10.8 yards won.
Nevertheless, the NAIA tournament brings with it a completely different level of competition than that of regular season football. Since the team has such a long wait, fans are curious to see how the Blue Hawks will perform in the upcoming tournament.
Stanton hopes the answer will be for the team to continue its dominant status.
Now that we know the squad show is coming on Sunday, the energy level is definitely starting to get that playoff feel and we need to practice at a higher level, Stanton said. We have to play at a higher level, and it’s a unique situation, and everyone knows it.
There are teams that have played three or four games, but then some teams have missed games. We’ve been saying this since August, so we control ourselves, control one exercise at a time, that’s really the attitude we took.
The upcoming Blue Hawks opponent has yet to be announced, but no matter who the league will be, Dickinson State is poised to represent the city of Dickinson in the best possible way in the upcoming tournament.
We were just going to play against whoever was picked to play, and whoever our opponent is would just be ready to play, Stanton said. We have a lot of guys who have been there before, they’ve been in the playoffs before. Whoever it is and wherever it is, we have to be ready to take the opportunity.
The NAIA Selection Show 2021 is scheduled for Sunday, April 11 at 5:00 PM CST. The opening round games are scheduled for April 17, and the best seeds are set to host the lower-ranked competitors in their home field.
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