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If Black Hills State University head coach John Reiners wanted a battle for the empty slot of starting quarterback, apparently he is getting his wish.

With the talented Ward Anderson graduated, Reiners and the Jackets will have to look to a new signal caller with sophomore Zach Meyer and redshirt freshman Ben Sjobakken back to lead the way, along with true freshmen Melvin Bobo, IV and Ryan Hommel.

“Zach Meyer and Ben Sjobakken had a very good spring, both of them," Reiners said. "I thought they matured through the spring ball season and it was something that gave us some confidence. We also went through the recruiting process and we recruited two very good freshmen.”

Early in the fall drills, Reiners said that no one has been crowned the starting quarterback yet. He said it will be a race to see who takes the field on Sept. 5 at Idaho State.

“I feel very good with whoever we have behind center,” he said. "We have some guys, with our veterans and our young guys, who are very much up to the challenge of trying to see who is going to be that guy.”

Reiners said they will scrimmage on Wednesday and Sunday, and will have a better idea of who are the front-runners by the second scrum.

“After that, I would say we’ll have a pretty good idea of who our top two or three are and we’ll be able to mark it down from there,” he said.

Senior wide receiver Jerome Krysl is comfortable working with any of the prospective quarterbacks and said that they all have done a good job for what they have been thrown into.

“Ward was a great quarterback, so there are going to be adjustments," Krysl said. "I think so far they have done well. They have all come to work. We have quite a battle going on now and every guy is giving it their best. Whoever winds up being the quarterback, I think we’re going to be fine.”

Timing between receiver and quarterback is important as each QB throws the ball different. Krysl said that he feels comfortable with all of the quarterbacks.

 “We’re all making strides together," he said.

Krysl and junior Bradley Adamson are the veteran receivers back for the Yellow Jackets as not only did BHSU lose its starting quarterback, it lost a few guys that Anderson threw to.

“We have been trying to lead the guys," Krysl said of the young receiving crew. "We definitely feel comfortable with what we do and we have a lot of talent with the young guys. They are getting better day-by-day, so there will be some young guys step up and do good things for us.”

Fast, physical and alert

First-year defensive coordinator Anthony Kerr has brought a new 3-4 defense to the fold, which has Reiners and the players happy.

Junior outside linebacker Damon Goldhammer said things have gone pretty well so far.

“We have a lot of young guys who have been picking it up the last few days,” Goldhammer said. “Most of us who are returning from spring, we pretty much have it down already.”

Goldhammer said what he really likes about the new defense is there is a lot less thinking, but just flying around and playing football.

“I don’t want to say it is a simpler defense, but it is a lot easier as a player to fly around,” he said. “I think that will benefit us a lot since a lot of us don’t have a lot of experience yet. What we don’t have in experience, we definitely make up in talent.”

Kicking game

The third phase of the game, special teams, has been getting some extra work this fall by adding more meeting time and more practice time, Reiners said.

In the kicking game, freshmen Jess Edens and Dietrik Becker will be vying for the kicking job, as will Trey Fleming, who was hurt last year and didn’t play.

“We’re very pleased with where special teams are,” Reiners said. “Coach (Jared) Petrino does a tremendous job. He leads that group and all of our assistants really take a big role in coaching their part. We want to be show time and we want to be game changers. Last year it changed the game for us, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse.”

The RMAC is pretty good

To move up in the ever strong Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference that features last year’s national champion — Colorado State-Pueblo — as well as Colorado Mines and Chadron State College, the Yellow Jackets have to not only improve, but learn how to win the close games.

“We’ve narrowed the gap, there’s no doubt in my mind,” Reiners said. “It comes down to our guys believing in themselves and understanding that there are no excuses out there. We have to find a way to win those games.”

Pueblo’s lone loss last year came to a team — Fort Lewis College — that the Jackets beat by 26 points at home. Yet, BHSU still finished 2-7 in league play.

“I’ve always said that football is not round, it bounces a hundred different directions. We have to make sure we are taking advantage of every opportunity in every game,” Reiners said. “It is a very tough conference, but this conference has shown that anybody can beat anybody. As we’ve matured and progressed as a team in the last three years, we’re at that point where we have to make sure we are getting over that hump.”

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Sports Editor

Sports reporter for the Rapid City Journal.