SIOUX CENTER, Iowa | Joel Penner knows he has to keep the growth of the Dordt football program in perspective.
Still, there’s times when the second-year head coach finds himself impatient with the process. Last month, Dordt posted back-to-back wins over nationally-ranked Doane and Hastings.
Dakota Wesleyan battled back from a brief 38-34 third-quarter deficit last Saturday, using a fumble recovery and a blocked punt to set up two touchdowns in its 62-52 win over Dordt. It was the Defenders’ third straight defeat.
“When you play against an offense the caliber of Dakota Wesleyan that has a quarterback the caliber of Dillon Turner, you’re not going to beat them unless you take advantage of opportunities,” said Penner, whose squad will equal last year’s win total (5) if they defeat Briar Cliff in the season finale for both GPAC squads this afternoon at Open Space Park.
“We took advantage of some. Of all the games we’ve played this year, this was the one that haunts me the most. We didn’t play our best football. We set (seven) school records on offense. But it’s not a game I’m proud of in how we competed.”
Quarterback Brock Lamle’s 1,748 yards through the air and 18 touchdown passes this season included records for completions (23), passing yards (415), total yards (392) and touchdown passes (5) against DWU. Dordt’s school-record 697 yards total offense included a record 281 yards receiving for Levi Jungling (54 catches, 1,080 yards, 10 TDs) and a record 98-yard TD run from running back Keithen Drury (1,185 yards, 11 TDs).
Still, Turner guided DWU to 612 yards total offense. Dordt has lost leads in four of their five defeats.
“Last year, we got blown out in three games, but this year, we’ve had a lead in every game except Morningside,” said Penner. “In every game but Morningside when we went into the fourth quarter, it was 50-50 who was going to win. We’re a competitive football team. On our better days we’ll finish with a ‘W’ but when it’s not one of our better days, we’ll lose by a score.
“Defensively, we’ve had nine freshmen at one time on the field. It is crazy to think how young we are and how we have competed so hard. I’m happy with the progress, but I am an impatient person. I have to fight for perspective. I have to keep in mind this is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”
Briar Cliff will turn to freshman quarterback Dillon Ruelas (457 yards, 2 TDs) this afternoon. Ruelas takes over for senior Dylan Desmarais (355, 4), who dislocated his shoulder in the first quarter of last Saturday’s 35-7 loss to Concordia.
Ruelas threw for 96 yards and a 33-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter to Logann Freeman (15 catches, 280 yards, 3 TDs). Call it preparation for next season for Ruelas, who could assume the position heading into Spring Drills.
“He’s raw, but he’s a big, young, talented guy,” said Briar Cliff Coach Dennis Wagner. “He’ll need to fine-tune his footwork and his speed in the off-season. His progression as a freshman has been great. He has arm strength. As big as he is, he’s 220, he can still move well in the pocket. I’m excited with what he can do in the future if he puts the work in and apply himself to what we need at that position.”
Chance Barlow (462 yards passing, 4 TDs) will assume quarterback duties in wildcat formations. Running back Noah Ylagan (1,246 yards, 7 TDs), who rushed for 124 yards in last year’s 38-16 loss to the Defenders, will aim for his seventh 100-yard plus performance this afternoon.
“This is a team that can do a number of things offensively so we have to make sure when our offense is on the field, we have to produce points,” said Wagner. “They did show last week they can throw the football if they have to. So we’ll have to prepare not only to stop the run, but we’ll have to keep things in front of us and not give up big plays in the passing game.”