BHSU football season shortened by COVID-19

Black Hills State University quarterback Chance Eben looks to pass as the offensive line, including Sam Ambrogio, provides protection. The Yellow Jackets managed to play two games this fall. Pioneer file photo

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SPEARFISH — Black Hills State University’s football season lasted only two games but helped set a foundation for the future.

Yellow Jackets’ head coach Josh Breske said the team really needed to play games this fall, whether it was the five originally scheduled or just one.

“I’m really, really happy that our administration, including our president and athletic director, have stepped up to help us do this,” Breske said.

Younger players gained experience this fall, and Breske cited that as the most rewarding aspect. He said changing a program’s culture and putting together a game plan starts with the way players practice and train.

“We needed to learn how to practice,” Breske said. “Everything is highly intentional, and it all ties in together to our mission.”

Breske said the team covered a lot of ground this fall.

He acknowledges an 0-2 record, setback against South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, and a lopsided setback against Colorado Mesa (56-7) may not signify a great deal of improvement to those outside the program.

 “Within our program, within our walls, there’s not one person that can deny the fact that we made solid progress,” Breske said. “One of the most frustrating things was just the roller coaster that we kind of experienced with our negative and positive COVID tests,” Breske said. “Our staff and our players did a tremendous job responding to that adversity.”

Breske said the virus presented external forces that were beyond anyone’s control.

Black Hills State fell 34-17 to South Dakota Mines in its season opener Oct. 10. Breske recalled the team mood after the game centered on where it goes from there.

“It really validated to me that there is a willingness to change from our team,” Breske said.

He added the players are willing to do what it takes, but the process will take time.

That includes new strength coach Derek Van Blarcom, who came to Black Hills State from Youngstown (Ohio) State and joined the program before the South Dakota Mines game. Breske said Van Blarcom will oversee a handful of sports, including football.

Things will resume in January, and the program is working on developing a nutrition center for student-athletes.

“One thing I think we definitely need to work on is learning how to fight through adversity,” Breske said.

He cited the importance of recognizing a downward spiral, and finding keys to reverse that.

Teams playing five or fewer games this fall have the option of having some contests in spring 2021. Breske said Black Hills State is still exploring those options.

Last week’s decision to cancel the rest of the season, as can be imagined, was very disappointing for all. That especially held true for players like Cole Miller, Matt Caeser, and Caleb Measner who earlier indicated this would be their final collegiate season.

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