MITCHELL, S.D. – The 2013 Dakota Wesleyan University football team etched its place in Tiger football history this season, and it was rewarded Tuesday morning when the Great Plains Athletic Conference year-end awards were handed out.
Second-year head coach Ross Cimpl was named the league's coach-of-the-year, and 14 of his athletes earned All-GPAC honors at 15 different positions. This is the first coaching honor of Cimpl's career, and it comes on the heels of one of the top three seasons in DWU football history. The Tigers finished the season 8-3 overall and 7-2 and in third in the GPAC and ranked No. 20 in the NAIA. This marks just the third season in DWU football history a team has won eight or more games in a season. The last time it happened was in 1992 when the Tigers went 10-1 and made the NAIA playoffs. The only other time was in 1976 when DWU finished 8-2.
Cimpl, who is 14-7 in two seasons at the helm at Dakota Wesleyan, coached five GPAC Players-of-the-Week in 2013. He helped his team set school records for points (329) and total offense (4,547) in a season and he watched as one individual game record, one season record and one career record fell in 2013. Dakota Wesleyan upset 20th-ranked Doane College this season, and also beat two teams that were receiving votes in the NAIA. The Tigers ended the year on a four-game winning streak and won seven of their last eight games.
Headlining the Tigers' All-GPAC selections this season were Francois Barnaud and Anthony Muilenburg who both earned All-GPAC First Team Offense Honors, and Brady Bonte was named to the first team defense. Muilenburg also earned honorable mention status for his performance as a punt return specialist. Jake Verry and Kyle Hencke both earned All-GPAC Second Team Offense and Eric Gruis and Matt McManus were named to the second team defense, and Jon Bane, Eric Witte, Anthony Cervantes, Tanner Munk, Matt Tuttle, Skyler Eriksen and Jeff Maassen earned honorable mention accolades.
Barnaud earns the first GPAC honor of his career after a breakout junior season. The Belle Fourche, S.D., native missed nine of 10 games in 2012 due to an injury, but came back and led the NAIA in rushing and set the school record for rushing yards in a season in 2013. He finished the season first in the nation with 1,893 rushing yards, second in rushing per game (172.1), third in all-purpose yards (2,109) and fourth in all-purpose yards per game (191.7).
Barnaud carried the ball 285 times, scored 14 touchdowns and averaged 6.6 yards per carry this season. He also caught 20 passes for 215 yards. He set the school record for rushing in a season one year after Josh Endres broke the 23-year-old mark.
This marks the seventh GPAC honor in five seasons for Muilenburg, who returned to the Tiger receiving corps after missing the 2012 season with an injury. He earned first team offense and second team special teams as a junior in 2011, first team offense and special teams in 2010 and honorable mention status as a freshman. The third first team offense honor of his career comes after setting the school record with 251 receiving yards in a game against Northwestern and the career receptions record with 225. Muilenburg ended the year ninth in the nation in receiving yards (1,002), 10th in total catches (65) and 11th in receiving yards per game (11.1). He caught 13 touchdown passes and also ran for one touchdown.
Muilenburg, a Sioux Falls, S.D., native, also earned honorable mention accolades after finishing third in the GPAC with 9.6 yards per punt return. He returned 16 punts for 154 yards this season.
Bonte, a sophomore linebacker from Garretson, S.D., earned honorable mention as a freshman, but was named first team defense in 2013 after leading the DWU defense all season. He finished eighth in the conference with 8.1 tackles per game and led the team with 88 total tackles. He finished eighth in the NAIA with 20 tackles for a loss of 100 yards and nine sacks. He also returned one interception for a touchdown, had three pass breakups, one fumble recovery and one forced fumble.
This year's offensive honor marks the first for Verry, a junior from Wernersville, Penn., and the second for Hencke, a junior from Sturgis, S.D. The two offensive linemen paved the way for a DWU offense that set school records for points in a season and total offense in a season. They helped DWU run for 2,213 total yards and played a large role in Barnaud's single-season rushing record. They also helped the Tiger offense throw for 2,334 yards this season.
Gruis, a defensive lineman from Baltic, S.D., earned the first defensive honor of his career in his final season with the program. He finished eighth on the team with 46 total tackles and second on the team with 7.5 tackles for a loss. He also had 3.5 sacks. This is also the first GPAC honor for McManus, a senior defensive back from Fulton, S.D. He finished the year second on the team with 68 tackles, and he led the team with three interceptions. He returned one interception 75 yards for a touchdown to help DWU beat Concordia in its final home game of the season. McManus also had three pass breakups and one tackle for a loss.
This marks the third straight honorable mention honor for Bane, a senior from Rogers, Texas. The quarterback graduates with the school's career records for passing yards (9,224) and total offense (9,365). He went 180-for-362 for 2,330 yards this season. He threw for 25 yards and finished third in the GPAC with 211.8 yards per game.
Witte earned the second honorable mention honor of his career and Eriksen earned his first in his senior season. Witte, a senior from Huron, S.D., and Eriksen, a Presho, S.D., native, helped pave the way for the Dakota Wesleyan offense, which finished third in the GPAC in total offense (413.4) and rushing offense (201.2) in 2013. They also helped protect Bane and helped DWU finish third in the NAIA in total sacks against (10).
This is the third straight honorable mention honor for Maassen, a junior linebacker from Brandon, S.D. He finished fifth on the team with 60 tackles and also had six tackles for a loss and one interception. Cervantes, a junior from Burbank, Calif., earned the second honorable mention honor of his career after finishing fourth on the team with 63 tackles. He finished second on the team with 7.5 tackles for a loss and added two sacks and two pass breakups.
Munk and Tuttle were both honored for the first time in 2013. Tuttle, a senior defensive lineman from Ethan, S.D., recorded 24 tackles, including 6.5 tackles for a loss, in his final season with the program. He also had two sacks and two pass breakups. Munk, a freshman defensive back from Dell Rapids, S.D., finished fourth in the NAIA with 1.5 passes defended per game. He was third on the team with 67 tackles, had 2.5 tackles for a loss and 17 total passes defended.
Dakota Wesleyan returns seven All-GPAC honorees in 2013. The Tigers lose 12 players to graduation, but look to build on this season's success and earn a spot in the NAIA playoffs in 2014.