The Chadron State College football team hopes to get its season off to a rousing start when it plays the Quincy Hawks at Quincy, Ill., on the banks of the Mississippi River on Thursday, Aug. 31. Kickoff will be at 5 p.m. Mountain Time.
The game was arranged last spring when neither of the head coaches, Jay Long of Chadron State and Gary Bass of Quincy, could find a closer opponent for their season-opener.
Long said he can’t make any guarantees about this year’s team, but he’s excited about the seasons and knows the Eagles will play hard
The teams have some similarities. Both are coming off disappointing seasons. The Eagles had a 3-8 record last fall and the Hawks were 4-7. Each has just five seniors on its list of probable starters.
Because of injuries, Chadron State was forced to start three different quarterbacks last season. The one who played the most, senior Heath Beemiller, is expected to start the opener. Offensive Coordinator Micah Smith said Beemiller has shaken off the injuries and become more consistent.
“We have a lot of good playmakers among our receivers and running backs. We’ll try to get the ball to them in space,” Smith said.
The offensive line leader is center Michael DeCamillis, who will be the starting for the fifth consecutive season, including 2020, when the Eagles bucked the national trend and played four games despite COVID 19. DeCamillis was second-team all-conference last fall and is one of the six co-captains that the players elected last week.
The Eagles’ defense will feature a strong front line, where nine players are expected to rotate and play physical football. The group includes Hunter O’Connor, who, as a sophomore last fall, finished with 60 total tackles, 24 of them for minus yards, including 16 quarterback sacks that led NCAA II through the regular season and broke the CSC single-season record.
Senior linebacker Joey Geil long ago established the reputation for playing hard and making big plays. Defensive Coordinator Clint Sasse believes redshirt freshman Reed Henkel is from the same mold.
“A year ago Reed was on the scout team, but he had a great spring, a great off-season and has made huge strides,” Sasse said.
The secondary has several newcomers, but Sasse says they are talented and will provide excellent depth. A big plus is the return of cornerback Jahvonte Hair, who sustained a broken leg in last year’s season opener. Sasse often talks about the “high football IQ” of this year’s group and believes they are “well prepared and ready for anything.”
Not a whole lot is known about the Quincy Hawks, but they have some players with impressive numbers.
They have a new quarterback in Drake Davis, a transfer from Northern Michigan, where in 17 games the past three years, he completed 227 of 371 passes for 2,412 yards and 16 touchdowns to go with 12 interceptions. He also ran for 546 yards and six TDs.
The Hawks return their top receiver from a year ago in senior Jason Lawrence, who caught 51 passes for 818 yards and nine scores. Their defensive leader is Peyton Plunkett, a 6-3, 237-pound senior who had eight sacks among his 18 tackles for minus yards last fall and also forced six fumbles.
The Eagles will play their second game at home starting at noon on Saturday, Sept. 9 against the Augustana Vikings. At halftime of that game, the 1989 and 1990 teams, both of which were nationally ranked in the top 10 and were the first from CSC to qualify for the playoffs while be inducted into the CSC Athletic Hall of Fame.