Two football teams looking for their first wins will meet Saturday at noon when the Chadron State Eagles visit the Fort Lewis Skyhawks in southwestern Colorado at Durango for a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference clash. Kickoff will be at noon.
The Eagles are 0-5 and the Skyhawks are 0-4. Both have had trouble scoring. Chadron State is averaging 14 points a game and Fort Lewis is averaging 8.8. Two of Chadron State’s losses have been to Angelo State and Black Hills State, both of which are 5-0, and another was to Colorado Mines last Saturday. The Orediggers are 3-2, with one loss to Angelo State in overtime and another to undefeated Grand Valley State 25-22.
Fort Lewis, coached by former Skyhawk star Johnny Cox in his first season, lost its opener to Arizona Christian 52-12 and has fallen to New Mexico Highlands 27-3, Adams State 52-17 and Colorado State-Pueblo 75-3 the last three weeks.
The Skyhawks have a more established situation at quarterback than the Eagles. Braden Wingle, a 6-foot-6, 240-pound junior, apparently has taken every snap from center for his team. He has completed 83 of 145 passes for 646 yards and three touchdowns. He’s been intercepted 10 times.
Chadron State opened the season with transfer Heath Beemiller calling the signals. He sustained a knee injury early in the fourth quarter of the third game against Black Hills State and was replaced by sophomore Mason Hamilton.
Hamilton completed that game and played most of the fourth contest at Western Colorado in Gunnison, but has a left (he’s right-handed) shoulder injury that apparently has ended his season.
That has made redshirt freshman Preston Pearson the Eagles’ field general. With neither of the other two on this week’s depth chart, Pearson is expected to be the starting QB again at Fort Lewis, CSC Offensive Coordinator Micah Smith said. It is anticipated Beemiller will be able to return to action before the season ends.
Altogether, the Eagles have competed 85 of 171 passes for 863 yards and four TDs, three of them by Hamilton and the other by Pearson last Saturday. They have been intercepted 10 times, two of them thrown by Pearson.
This is not the first time the Eagles have been forced to play their third-team quarterback when he was a freshman.
In 1975, standout John Burns suffered a dislocated right shoulder while scoring a touchdown at Colorado Mines shortly after halftime. Senior Jack Gutierrez was his replacement and the Eagles went on to win 11-10 on a last-second field goal. However, Gutierrez broke a finger on his throwing hand in practice the early the next week, ending his career.
After some experimenting by Coach Sparky Adams that included attempting to form a wishbone offense with other players, freshman Brad Fults came to the rescue, and the Eagles won their final five games of the season, including the Colorado Mines game 11-10 on a last-second field goal.
Thirty years later, Tyler Hidrogo was the CSC quarterback through the first five games, when he sustained a dislocated his left shoulder (he was right-handed) late in the first quarter at Fort Lewis. With backup Ross Janssen not on the trip, true freshman Joe McLain of Chadron, who had been charting plays on a clipboard and had not played in the previous games, was forced into action.
Chadron State fans will recognize that both of these “third stringers” became Eagles’ all-time greats. Each was the starting quarterback the next three years with exceptional results. Both Fults and McLain received the Omaha World-Herald’s Male State College Athlete of the Year honor as seniors.
Time will tell how Pearson fares now that he’s being pressed into action under similar circumstances. He was a Class A all-state choice as a senior at Kearney High School. Here’s a footnote about Pearson: He’s only the left-handed quarterback to see much action at CSC in the past 60 years aside from Gering native Patrick O’Boyle, who did not start, but was an invaluable alternate 2011-14.
The Eagles also will be without one of their other offensive leaders Saturday. All-conference tackle Juan Estrada-Sanchez has a gimpy ankle and is not slated to play against the Skyhawks. However, last year’s leading rusher, Jeydon Cox, was on the field for only one play against Mines because of an injury, but should be available for more action Saturday, coaches report.
On the other side of the ball, the defense is welcoming back senior safety Brendan Brehmer of Alliance, who sustained a knee injury in the first quarter of the season opener, but has recovered sufficiently to make the trip to Durango.