The Chadron State College football team will open its Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference schedule Saturday night by playing long-time rival Black Hills State in Spearfish. Kickoff will be at 6 o’clock.
Both teams are 1-1. The Eagles squeezed past the Quincy Hawks 35-34 in their opener in Illinois before falling to the Augustana Vikings 27-3 at home last Saturday. Black Hills opened its season by losing 36-26 to the Division I St. Thomas Tommies in St. Paul, Minn., before slipping past Southwest Baptist of Bolivar, Mo., 39-33 at home last Saturday.
Quincy and Southwest Baptist are both in the Great Lakes Conference. Southwest won last year’s game 42-24. Quincy bounced back from the heart-breaker the Eagles handed them by overwhelming Madonna University from Livonia, Mich., 89-0 last Saturday. Southwest Baptist had romped past Panhandle State of Oklahoma 65-7 in its season opener.
The University of South Dakota downed St. Thomas 24-0 last Saturday.
The Chadron State-Black Hills series dates back to 1912, the second year Chadron State was in operation. It continued on nearly an annual basis through the 1995 season.
After that the Eagles were playing nearly a full slate of RMAC games, and the football teams did not meet again until 2012 when the Yellow Jackets became a conference member. CSC has won eight of the 10 games since then, but one of the Yellow Jackets’ wins in the renewed series was last year, when they won 32-23 at Elliott Field in Chadron.
Last year’s game had lots of offense. The Eagles out-yarded Black Hills 469 to 409, but the Jackets had possession of the ball 36 minutes, 12 more than CSC. The score was knotted at 10-10 at halftime, but Black Hills passed for two touchdowns in the third quarter and remained ahead the rest of the way.
While the Chadron State coaches were disappointed with the loss to Augustana, they are confident the Eagles can do well this fall. Head Coach Jay Long said his team “needs to learn from its mistakes and build on the things it did well.”
Offensive Coordinator Micah Smith was pleased that quarterback Heath Beemiller completed 19 of 26 passes and was not intercepted, but added that the offensive line needs to provide better protection for the quarterbacks.
“We definitely need to run the ball better than we did on Saturday,” Smith added. “We think Augustana had a really good defense, but we missed some opportunities to make some big plays in the passing game.”
On the other side of the ball, the Eagles gave up two huge touchdown passes that Defensive Coordinator Clint Sasse noted, “We can’t let that happen again.” The first that went for an 80-yard TD was on a “free play” after the CSC defense had been offsides and the second, a 60-yarder, “was blown coverage,” Sasse stated.
On the other side of the coin, the Eagles limited the Vikings to fewer than 100 yards rushing, Augustana completed only 50% of its passes and safety Dax Yeradi intercepted three to merit consideration for the RMAC Defensive Player of the Game honor.
Black Hills has a new quarterback this fall. He is a Tanner Clarkson, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound senior who transferred from Northwest Oklahoma State. He completed 61% of his passes for 4,130 yards and 31 touchdowns while playing there the previous three years.
In the first two games with Black Hills, Clarkson connected on 31 of 49 passes for 501 yards and three TDS. He also is the Yellow Jackets’ leading rusher with 27 carries for 105 yards, quite a few of them while scrambling after he had looked to pass, according to Sasse.
The Yellow Jackets have another dangerous player in senior Nolan Sussel, who is 5-11, 220. He’s rushed 17 times for 76 yards, caught a team-best nine passes for 144 yards, completed two of three passes and scored four of the team’s eight touchdowns.
Black Hills’ defensive leaders include Doodles Quinones, a 5-6, 180-pound junior who was a first-team RMAC all-conference selection last season. He was named the RMAC Defensive Player of the Week following the game against St. Thomas, when he participated in 10 tackles, blocked two kicks and broke up two passes.
In 2021, Quinones led the Jackets with 100 tackles, and has broke up 15 passes the last two seasons.
Chadron State Head Coach Jay Long and Black Hills’ Josh Breske are well acquainted. Beske was a four-year starter in the Yellow Jackets’ offensive line 2006 through 2009. Long was the Jackets’ offensive line coach the first three years and the head coach when Breske was a senior and earned NAIA All-American honors. Breske was the first All-American Long coached.
After three years as the Jackets’ head mentor, Long returned to his alma mater as Chadron State’s head coach in 2012. That fall, Breske joined the Eagles’ coaching staff as a graduate assistant and earned his master’s degree from CSC in 2013.
Breske took over as the Black Hills head coach in December 2019. Because of the COVID pandemic, the Yellow Jackets played just two games in the fall of 2000. They had a 4-7 record in 2021, then reversed that mark last season.