Black Hills State Yellow Jacket Football will begin preparation for their fall season on August 12th with 17 returning players with starting experience. The Yellow Jackets will begin fall camp with a two-day orientation with 43 newcomers to the program. On August 13th 45 veterans will report to camp with practices beginning that afternoon. First year Head Coach Jay Long and his staff are looking to build upon past years of success and compete for a Dakota Athletic Conference Championship. “Our goal is to be the most physical and hard working team in the DAC. The foundation of our success has been effort,” said Head Coach Jay Long.
Offensive coordinator John Reiners will have nine players returning with starting experience. Entering fall camp the Yellow Jackets will return junior 2nd Team All-DAC quarterback Drew Hodgs from Douglas, Wyoming who has started the previous two seasons. Also in addition to Drew the Yellow Jackets have added junior Zac Zandstra a transfer from Chadron State College. Zac was a graduate from Rapid City Stevens High School. Rounding out the quarterback position, the Yellow Jackets also added three freshman to compete for playing time in Mitch Spindler from Box Elder, South Dakota, Wes Kragt from Huntley, Montana , and Chris Wenk from Hartford, South Dakota. “Zac, Mitch, Wes, and Chris should provide depth at the quarterback position which we haven’t had in the past,” said Coach Long.
In the backfield the Yellow Jackets will be relying on the veteran leadership of Clint Nichols a four-year starter. “Clint is known for being a physical tough runner and blocker. When times get tough he will be a guy we can count on to run the ball,” added Coach Long. With the red-shirting of junior Tanner Ehrlich the tailback position will be a competition between six tailbacks. Juniors Mike Jager from Lake Norden, South Dakota and Colby McGinley from Rapid City, South Dakota will add starting experience. Coming off an injury from a year ago sophomore Ryan Palmer from Faith, South Dakota will add some key experience. Ryan has backed up Tanner Ehrlich the two previous seasons. Freshmen Cole Benne from Rapid City, South Dakota, Joel Cornelison from Ft. Pierre, South Dakota, and Jessen Kirchner from Littleton, Colorado will all compete for a starting position. “Going into camp the tailback position is wide open. I feel very confident with any of these players and it may be a trial by committee utilizing each of these player’s strengths,” said Coach Long.
The receiving core will be led by four-year starter 1st Team All-DAC Corey Wheeler from Cheyenne, Wyoming. “Corey has made a lot of big catches in the past three seasons and will be called upon heavily this season,” added Coach Long. The other player with returning starting experience is senior tight end Cliff Bryan who started every game last season. Two other veterans coming into camp with experience are junior Willie Padilla from Rock Springs, Wyoming and Danny Hadley from Gillette, Wyoming. Other players that will be accounted on are sophomores Mike Kreitman from Gordon, Nebraska and Michael Collins from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. New freshmen that will be competing for starting positions are Luke Whalen from Gregory, South Dakota, Daniel Hancock from Douglas, Wyoming, Nick Pisciotti from Newcastle, Wyoming, Taylor Pyle from Burns, Wyoming, Bruce McHenry from Cheyenne, Wyoming, Tate Guptill from Phillip, South Dakota, Sterling Boylan from Newell, South Dakota and D.J. West from Star Valley, Wyoming. “Defenses will gear their coverage’s to stop Corey, so we will need to have some players step up and make plays,” added Coach Long.
The offensive line will return all five starters from the 2008 season where the Yellow Jackets led the DAC in overall rushing. The offensive line is led by three seniors; Preseason All-American Josh Breske from Pierre, South Dakota, 1st Team All-DAC Jason Boeding from Caputa, South Dakota, and Cody Geffre from Pierre, South Dakota. Second Team All-DAC sophomore Tom Owsiany from Pine, Colorado and junior Kale DeMinck from Douglas, Wyoming round out the returning starters. Other players that will provide depth on the offensive line are juniors Jarod Elliott, sophomore Mike Badovinatz, and freshmen J.R Barham, Rick White, James Erickson, Ryland Smith, Curtis Stoltenberg, Clayton McSpadden, Sam Olson, and Shane Hyronimus. “With a young wide receiver core and a new tailback it is comforting to know we are strong up front with our offensive line. The offensive line should be the strength of the offense,” said Coach Long.
Special Teams will be improved from the 2008 season with the addition of freshman Levi Millikin from Wheatland, Wyoming who averaged 43 yards per punt in high school and All-State kicker Chris Wenk from Hartford, South Dakota. The Yellow Jackets will be relying on senior Darrell Neiman from Sundance, Wyoming to pick up most of the return duties.
The Yellow Jacket defense has been the staple of their success the past six seasons and Coach Long is expecting no changes. Defensive coordinator Jeff Larson will be relying on the Linebackers as the strength of the defense. Returners include 2nd Team All-DAC Richard Fairhead from Gordon, Nebraska and senior Sean Sweet from Loveland, Colorado both have started the past two seasons. Also returning to the lineup from a 2008 injury will be 2007 2nd Team All-DAC junior Forrest Sainsbury from Camp Crook, South Dakota. Other veteran linebackers with experience that will be accounted upon are junior Tom Tripp from Hartford, South Dakota, sophomore Lane Varner from Delta, Colorado, and senior Nic Prather from Marysville, California. Sophomore transfer from Western State College Blaine Eppel and freshmen Ryan Lee from Glenrock, Wyoming, Trent Tuberville from Buffalo, South Dakota, and Chase Tyson from Wheatland, Wyoming will compete for playing time. Other freshmen that will provide depth are Justin Walker, Evan Wortman, Bryce Beals, and Nick Olson. “All of our linebackers have tremendous speed and with our blitz package they will be fun to watch,” stated Coach Long.
The defensive line will be anchored by junior Preseason All-American Wacey Coleman from Rozet, Wyoming who has been a top ten sack leader in the nation the past two seasons. “When opposing offensive lines face the Yellow Jackets I guarantee they know where #99 is lined up. He is one of the most relentless and physical defensive lineman in our league,” stated Coach Long. Other players coming into the season with experience are sophomore Clayton Smith from Greeley, Colorado, Brady Clark from Hartford, South Dakota, and Brady Weischedel from Onida, South Dakota. Players that will add depth to the defensive line will be freshmen Stephen Easton, Mike Pollick, Ryan Best, Cody Powers, Matt Maidl, Pat Rous, Spencer Steele, Steve Dolan, Allen West, and Bradford Hanes. “Like in the past, size is not our strength but our speed, scheme, and effort will make up for the lack of size,” added Coach Long.
The defensive backfield will be led by four-year starter 2nd Team All-DAC senior Darrell Neiman. Other returning starters include senior Josh Wood from Manitou Springs, Colorado, junior Clayton Schleusner from New Underwood, South Dakota, and sophomore Kellen Anderson from Wheatland, Wyoming. Red-shirt freshmen Scott Boner from Douglas, Wyoming and Scott Soderstrom from Worland, Wyoming will push for a starting role. Freshmen Michael Oberle, Drew Nielsen, Ryan Kinzer, Austin Prevedel, Matt Grave, Joey Brown, Blake Kirschenman, and Colton Mcrann will all provide depth. “With four players returning with starting experience and two freshmen that had a great spring camp we should be strong in the defensive backfield,” said Coach Long.
The Yellow Jackets will start the season with their first two games on the road at Southwest Minnesota State on September 5th at 6PM CST and Northwestern Oklahoma State University on September 12th at 1pm CST. They will return home for Swarm Days on September 19th at 1PM as they take on Mayville State University.