By Con Marshall
Led by to some huge plays by its defense, the Chadron State College football team wrapped up its season Saturday afternoon by defeating South Dakota Mines 27-19 in a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference contest at Elliott Field in Chadron.
The outcome gives both teams 5-6 season records and a 4-5 RMAC marks. It also allows the Eagles to regain the Eagle-Rock Trophy that the Hardrockers claimed last year for the first time in 16 games. This year’s game was the 73rd in the rivalry that dates back to 1912. Chadron State has now won 53 of them
Both teams had problems with turnovers and neither posted impressive offensive numbers Saturday. The Eagles turned two interceptions into touchdowns and the Hardrockers did that same with their lone pick. Chadron State also fumbled a punt that resulted in one of Mines’ two touchdowns.
Most of the fireworks happened in the second quarter.
Mines opened the scoring on a 22-yard field goal by Connor Taylor on the second play of the second period. It occurred after the Hardrockers had sacked Chadron State quarterback Mason Hamilton for a 20-yard loss and he also lost possession of the ball at his own 11-yard line. To the credit of the CSC defenders, they were able to force the visitors to settle for a field goal.
During the next 12 ½ minutes the Eagles scored three touchdown and the Hardrockers two. All but Chadron State’s second TD were aided by gifts from the opponents.
The Eagles were forced to punt on their first second-period possession, but Brodie Eisenbraun’s 45-yard boomer went out of bounds at the Mines’ two-yard line. Three plays later, the pass thrown by Hardrockers’ quarterback Jayden Johannsen’s went directly into the midsection CSC defensive tackle Kobe Whipple, who was rushing the passer and took about two more steps into the end zone to get credit for three-yard interception return.
About four minutes later, the Eagles went 60 yards for their second touchdown. A 22-yard pass from Hamilton to Tommy Thomas launched the drive. Two plays later Jeydon Cox carried at short pass 24 yards into the end zone, although he was scrambling to stay on his feet much of the way after nearly being tripped up by a Mines defender soon after he’d caught the ball. As he neared the goal line, Cox finally gave up and somersaulted into the end zone.
The Eagles had some more good fortune prior to their third touchdown. Johannsen’s pass was tipped near the line of scrimmage by two CSC defenders and finally grabbed by linebacker Joey Geil, who carried it 25 yards before he was shoved out of bounds at the Mines’ 10.
A half the distance to the goal penalty was also called on the Hardrockers and on the next play Hamilton threw a short pass in the end zone to Thomas. Wilson Yee’s extra point kicks made the score 21-3 with 6:36 left in the second frame.
Before the first half ended, the turnover trend shifted in favor of the Hardrockers, not just once, but twice. The visitors were forced to punt, but the Eagles’ muffed it and Mines’ Jarin Allen claimed the ball at CSC 25.
After three Mines’ passes netted just five yards, the South Dakota team attempted a 36-yard field goal. It was not good, but the Eagles were called for roughing the kicker. That gave Mines new life and Johannsen immediately hooked up with wide receiver Max Hoatson on a nine-yard touchdown toss with just under two minutes left in the half.
On the Eagles’ ensuing possession, they were confronted with a third and long following a holding penalty. Alternate quarterback Preston Pearson’s pass was tipped and then caught by Mines’ defensive lineman Caleb Franklin at the Eagles’ 15.
Three plays later after the Eagles were called for pass interference, Johannsen hit tight end Henry Dryden in the back of the end zone for what officially was a two-yard TD pass. Chadron State blocked the extra point attempt, making the halftime score 21-16.
Although five touchdowns were scored in the second quarter, three field goals accounted for the only scoring in the second half.
Yee’s 52-yard field goal that put the Eagles ahead 24-16 came late in the third period. Taylor answered with a 33-yard shot early in the fourth frame, making it a one possession game again.
Both teams were forced to punt on their next possessions, but the Eagles eventually drove 70 yards in 11 plays and took 5 ½ minutes off the clock. A 23-yard pass from Pearson to Thomas was the big gainer. Redshirt freshman Jake Marschall also had a 10-yard run up the middle for a crucial first down.
The drive finally died before reaching the end zone, but Yee kicked a 20-yard field goal with 1:13 left on the clock to give the Eagles’ an eight-point advantage.
There were still lots of anxious moments for both teams. Johanssen, who was playing in his fourth game against the Eagles, has definitely earned their respect. He was sacked once by CSC all-star Hunter O’Conner and had passes broken up by Dax Yeradi and Sutton Pohlman, but Johannsen also completed four passes in the next minute.
Two of them went to Mason Galbreath for 18 and 14 yards, another to Will Lester for 13 and the fourth to Ben Noland for 11. The latter gave the Hardrockers a first down at the CSC 26.
Johannsen launched two missiles in the remaining 10 seconds. The first barely sailed over Hoatson’s head as he ran out of the back of the end zone after it and the last one was broken up in the southeast corner of the end zone by JJ Hair.
The Eagles had prevailed.
Chadron State managed just 179 total net yards and Mines 230. Both teams lost more than 25 yards on quarterback sack. Marschall was the Eagles’ leading rusher with a tough 62 yards on 32 carries, while Jalen Frye led Mines with 39 on 13 rushes. Johannsen completed 19 of 39 passes for 157 yards to go with his two TD passes and the two costly interceptions.
Hamilton, the Eagles’ quarterback in the first half before he was injured while being sacked, connected on 11 of 18 passes and the TDs to Cox and Thomas. He was not intercepted.
Thomas caught four passes for 57 yards and Cox four for 34. Noland grabbed nine passes for 68 yards to lead the Hardrockers.
There were many busy tacklers. Freshman Tucker Peterson at safety and linebacker Xavier Harrell with 10 apiece paced the Eagles. Logan O’Brien had eight, Geil seven and O’Conner six.
For the Hardrockers, Hunter Newsom was credited with 11, Jacob Schwab nine, Nathan Krebuhler eight and Eli Bowman, Casey Knutsen and Franklin six apiece
First Downs 15 12
Total Net Yards 230 179
Rushes, Yards 36-73 34-57
Passing Yards 157 122
Passing 19-42-2 14-25-1
Return Yards 11 69
Punts, Yards 7-32.7 6-42.3
Fumbles, Lost 1-0 3-3
Penalties, Yards 5-40 8-84
South Dakota Mines 0 3 13 3 —19
Chadron State 0 21 3 3 —27
SDM—Connor Taylor 22 field goal
CSC—Kobe Whipple 3 interception return (Wilson Yee kick)
CSC—Jayden Cox 24 pass from Mason Hamilton (Yee kick)
CSC—Tommy Thomas 5 pass from Hamilton (Yee kick)
SDM—Max Hoatson 9 pass from Jayden Johannsen (Taylor kick)
SDM—Henry Dryden 2 pass from Johannsen (kick blocked)
CSC—Yee 52 field goal
SDM—Taylor 33 field goal
CSC—Yee 20 field goal