LINCOLN, Neb. – If the preseason coaches’ poll is any indication, the Great Plains Athletic Conference football race will be a tight one again in 2012.
The Dakota Wesleyan University football team was one of three teams picked to finish in a tie for fourth in the league, and two points separated those three teams from third place, it was announced Thursday at the 13th annual GPAC Football Media Day in Lincoln, Neb.
The Tigers, who went 6-4 overall and 5-4 and took fourth in the league in 2011, earned 51 points in the poll and tied with Doane College and Midland University in the poll, which is voted on by the league’s 10 head coaches. Northwestern was picked to win the league with 78 points and six first-place votes. Morningside College came in a close second with 76 points and the remaining four first-place votes.
Hastings College was picked third with 53 points, followed by DWU, Midland and Doane. Nebraska Wesleyan University was picked seventh (38), Concordia University eighth (24), Briar Cliff University ninth (16) and Dordt College was picked 10th (12) in the poll.
Doane College finished second last season and went 8-2 overall and 7-2 in the GPAC, while Midland went 6-4 overall and 5-4 in the league. The Tigers lost by two points to Doane and ended the season with a loss to Midland.
DWU started the season 5-0 for the first time since 1992, but went 1-4 in its last five games to end the season 6-4 overall. In his first season as head coach, Ross Cimpl is hoping to bring some consistency to the Tiger football program.
The Tiger defense took a hit to graduation, but Dakota Wesleyan returns several key pieces of its high-powered offense from 2011. Quarterback Jon Bane returns for his third season with the squad after setting a school record with 2,817 passing yards as a sophomore in 2011. He threw for 28 touchdowns and helped Dakota Wesleyan set the team record for passing offense in a season (2,944). At the end of many of his passes was senior wide receiver Anthony Muilenburg, who returns for his fourth and final year with the Tigers after earning All-GPAC First Team accolades and AFCA All-American honors for his play at wide receiver as a junior.
Running back Josh Endres is back after rushing for nearly 900 yards as a junior, and sophomore Arthur Brown and junior Francois Barnaud will also get some reps this season. Senior Nathan Little and junior Eric Witte – who returns after missing the 2011 season due to injury – will be key players on the offensive line.
Defensively, senior Mike Barnaud and sophomore Jeff Maassen, and Dustin Bergmeier returns for his senior season as the team’s top returning defensive back. Derek Carlson returns as the team’s punter, and Muilenburg will also see time on special teams for both punt and kickoff returns.
Cimpl brought in nearly 50 recruits for 2012, including Canistota, S.D., native Trevor Schroeder, a tight end who played on back-to-back state title-winning teams. Linebacker Brady Bonte (Garretson, S.D.), defensive lineman Calvin Hunhoff (Bertrand, Neb.) and offensive lineman Ryan Zdroik (Temple, Texas) headline Cimpl’s first recruiting class.
The Tiger football team reports for fall camp on Monday, Aug. 13. Dakota Wesleyan opens the 2012 season Saturday, Sept. 1, with a nonconference game against Dakota State University at 7 p.m. at Joe Quintal Field.
2012 GPAC Football Preseason Coaches’ Poll
- Northwestern College, 78 (6 first-place votes)
- Morningside College, 76 (4 first-place votes)
- Hastings College, 53
- Dakota Wesleyan University, 51
- Doane College, 51
- Midland University, 51
- Nebraska Wesleyan University, 38
- Concordia University, 24
- Briar Cliff University, 16
- Dordt College, 12