By Brad Blume
Sports Information Director
South Dakota School of Mines
RAPID CITY --- The Dakota Athletic Conference football season will soon draw to an end with just two games left in the regular season. Some teams are vying for a conference title and a possible berth into the NAIA playoffs while others are just trying to get through the year is one piece and take away as many positives as possible.
Saturday’s matchup is especially important between the South Dakota School of Mines Hardrockers and Mayville State Comets for both teams. While the Rockers do have one win to their credit, neither team has won a conference game this season and a victory would give either program much needed confidence and a step in the right direction.
“We beat this team last year. Mayville is looking for their first win this season. We’ve won one game, outside our conference, now we are going after our second,” said Hardrocker head coach Dan Kratzer of Saturday’s matchup. “To date, this will be our biggest game. It is an opportunity to play at home and get our second win. From an emphasis standpoint, we aren’t overemphasizing this game in comparison to any other, but the fact is that we have two games left and this is the most important one. We need to end the season on a good note and we need two back-to-back ball games where we play well and don’t shoot ourselves in the foot.”
And despite falling to Valley City last week, 44-8, the Hardrockers (1-7) were able to get some momentum on both sides of the ball which was reflected in the statistics.
“We generated some offense and, at times, did some good things on defense,” the head coach said.
The Comets (0-8) on the other hand, a team that is ranked last in 11 of the 15 categories in the team DAC standings, were blanked, 33-0, in a bout against Black Hills State last week. They are hoping to rebound from that this week, earn their first win of the season and, according to Kratzer, will more than likely do whatever it takes to get there.
“I kind of call them a reckless sort of football team. I saw them fake a punt from their own end zone. They aren’t afraid to take a chance here or there. They have nothing to lose,” he said. ���I am sure they will pull all the stops out this week to try and get a win. We are going to pull all the stops out to make sure they don’t”
Defensively Mayville runs a 4-3 defense and aren’t afraid to play man in an attempt to put pressure on opposing teams. Offensively the Comets have a motion type offense and do a lot of shifts from the line of scrimmage. Much like the Hardrockers, Mayville is a young team with not a lot of experience.
A player that does stand out however is quarterback Dustin Hagens. The 6-foot-3-inch, 215 pound junior seems to be the spark for the Comet offense. He is currently ranked eighth in the league for passing, accumulating 732 yards for four touchdowns. He has completed 77 of 196 passes and thrown 13 interceptions on the season.
“We have to make sure the quarterback doesn’t have a good game,” Kratzer said.
On the defensive side of the ball, Mayville has a pair of outstanding players in Mike Letourneau (senior 5-11, 170 pound cornerback.) and junior linebacker Jarrod Huber (6-3, 235 pounds).
“If they don’t make any big plays we have a chance of moving the ball,” Krazter said of their defense. Mayville also has a pair of top linebackers in Karson Storey (6-2, 215 pound junior) and Dominic Vargus (6-0 220 junior) that are second and third respectively in the conference for total tackles. Storey has 75 this season and is averaging 10.7 each game while Vargus has 80 on the year and is averaging 10.0 every game. Hardrocker Jake Hahn, from Hay Springs, Neb., is fourth on that same list with 75 total, averaging 9.4 a game.
A big factor in the outcome of Saturday’s game will be the starting personnel --- especially for SDM. The Hardrockers started the year with right around 60 players, not a lot by any means. For the next game, because of injuries and personal conflicts, Mines’ roster has been almost cut in half.
“We are just struggling with our numbers. We are down to 40 healthy players on the team and now (for Saturday) we are down to 38,” Kratzer said. “It’s not a very large college football squad. The guys that we do have are going to be fired up and ready to go.”
Despite the low body count, Kratzer said the game plan is simple – move the football, control the football and don’t turn over the football.
“We are a young football team that has almost a year’s experience under our belts so now it’s not time to pass the buck or use excuses --- just go out and play.”
The game is slate for a 1 p.m. kickoff.
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