Eagles To Host Highlands Cowboys Saturday


Photo Courtesy/Lynni Talady/CSC Sports Information

With the season winding down, the Chadron State football team will be at home the next two Saturdays to host New Mexico Highlands and Colorado Mesa before wrapping up the schedule on Nov. 12 at South Dakota Mines in Rapid City. The home games will kick off at noon.

First things first. While the Eagles have a 2-6 record the Highlands Cowboys are 3-4, including 3-3 in Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference contests.

Highlands lost to in-state rival Eastern New Mexico 34-18 in the season-opener. The conference wins have been over Fort Lewis 27-3, Adams State 23-21 and Black Hills State 30-28 in an upset. The Yellow Jackets were 5-0, including a rare win over Chadron State, when they visited Las Vegas (New Mexico).

The RMAC losses have been to South Dakota Mines 41-27 on Sept. 24 in Rapid City and to CSU-Pueblo 35-11 and Western Colorado 30-13, the last two Saturdays.

According to the statistics on their website, which are for six games instead of all seven they have played, the Cowboys are fairly balanced offensively. They have rushed for 1,138 yards, but also lost 225, giving them a net of 913. They have completed 72 of 139 passes for 1,177 yards and have scored seven touchdowns both on the ground and through the air.

Like the Eagles, Highlands has used three quarterbacks. This week’s depth chart says the starter Saturday will be Gage Guardiola, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound junior who in three games has completed 22 of 35 passes for 310 yards and two TDs.

The Cowboys have a special pass receiver. He’s CJ Sims, a 5-9, 160-pound senior from Covington, La. He was voted the RMAC’s Offensive Player of the Year last fall when he caught 64 passes for 1,045 yards and 12 touchdowns, but only four for 34 yards versus CSC a year ago.

Through six games this autumn, Sims had caught 29 passes for 593 yards and two TDs, including an 80-yarder.

Highlands’ rushing leader is Shawntay Mills, a 5-10, 190 senior from Raleigh, N.C. He has carried 93 times for 563 yards for a 6.1-yard average and six scores.

Like the Eagles’ Gunnar Jones, the Cowboys have an excellent kicker. Junior Will McDonald has made nine of 12 field goal attempts, including three of four from 40 or more yards, and a 39.4-yard punting average this fall.

The offensive line averages about 6-3 in height and 300 pounds. Nearly all the starters on both sides of the ball are juniors or seniors.

Highlands certainly has an experienced coach. Ron Hudson’s biography on the school’s website says he’s been on the coaching staffs of at least 15 schools, many of them at the major college level and often as an offensive line coach. He was the Cowboys’ top assistant last year, when Highlands was 5-6, and is in his first year as the team’s head coach.

The Eagles have some good news. As last Saturday’s game at Colorado State-Pueblo was drawing to a close, quarterback Heath Beemiller reinjured the knee that caused him to miss three games. It was initially believed the new injury was serious, but he been able to practice this week and is set to start against the Cowboys.

Last Saturday because of injuries, the Eagles were without five of their top six pass catchers. However, Offensive Coordinator Micah Smith said Wednesday it appears that two of them will be available this week.

Even though Highlands out-yarded the Eagles 435 to 406 yards last year in Las Vegas, Chadron State won 46-16 after getting off to a 29-0 start in the first period. CSC’s touchdowns included a 25-yard run by Braden Sandersfeld with a fumble after the Cowboys bobbled a kickoff return and an 88-yard interception jaunt by linebacker Jeremiah Makahununiu.