By Con Marshall
Defenses dominated Saturday when the Chadron State Eagles downed the New Mexico Highlands Cowboys 17-3 in a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference game played under perfect weather conditions in Chadron.
The combined 20 points scored are the fewest in the 30-year series, and each year since 2000, at least 40 points were posted on the scoreboard. In 2017 the total was 90 point and the next year it was 81.
The quarterbacks could attest to the defensive aggressiveness. The Eagles sacked Highlands’ Gage Guardiola eight times and the Cowboys dumped Chadron State’s Heath Beemiller four times before he got rid of the ball.
The Eagles are now 3-6 and the Cowboys 3-5. Both are 3-4 in the conference.
Chadron State scored first on its opening possession, when Gunnar Jones kicked a 37-yard field goal just four minutes into the game. A 37-yard pass from Beemiller to Grant Swensen in the middle of the field set up the score.
There were just 41 seconds left in the first half when Highlands’ Will McDaniel tied the score with his 42-yard boot. Three passes totaling 40 yards thrown Guardiola to pesky wide receiver Quavon Beckford preceded field goal.
The score was not tied long. On the Eagles’ second play following the Cowboys’ short kickoff, Beemiller hooked up with wide receiver Ahlonte Hair on about a 25-yard toss along the north sidelines. Like a tight rope walker, Hair stayed in bounds while outrunning and out-juking a couple Highlands’ defenders to complete the 52-yard play, the day’s longest of any dimension.
Jones’s extra point put the Eagles ahead 10-3.
The game’s only other touchdown came with 4:34 left in the third quarter, when the Eagles put together a 72-yard drive that includes the 10 yards Beemiller lost when he was sacked midway in the drive.
But the junior quarterback, playing in his second game after missing three because of a knee injury, got up off the turf and avoided the Cowboys’ persistent rush to complete his next three passes.
They were a 16-yarder to running back Jaden Stark, who turned the corner and romped upfield after making the catch, an 11-yard strike to tight end Peter Krohn over the middle and a short toss to wideout Jamal Browder, who made the grab in traffic and fought his way into the end zone to complete the eight-yard-yard play. Jones closed out the scoring by adding the PAT.
Scoring opportunities were rare for both teams. Midway in the second quarter after the Eagles tried to run out of punt formation on fourth down and failed. Highlands reached the Chadron State 18, but when running back Malakai Rango appeared to be on his way to the goal line, he was hit by linebacker Xavier Harrell at about the five-yard line, fumbled and CSC safety Dax Yeradi recovered the ball on the end zone for a touchback.
Late in the game, three interceptions kept the teams from rallying. The Eagles got the first and the last picks, both on tipped balls. The exchanges helped emphasize that defenses were in control.
Guardiola’s pass was tipped by linebacker Joey Geil and cornerback Bobbie Peele dove and caught the ball just before it hit the turf.
The Eagles took over on their 28 and promptly moved to midfield on Dorian Collier’s 23-yard rush up the middle. But after picking up another first down, Beemiller’s pass was grabbed by Highland’s Ben Sutton a few inches in front of the intended receiver.
However, on Highlands’ first play after the exchange, Eagles’ defensive linemen collaborated to get the ball back for their offense. Trevon Smith tipped the pass at the line of scrimmage to Kien Martin.
Chadron State finished with 383 total net yards, mostly through the air. Beemiller completed 20 of 31 passes for 278 yards. Eight Eagles caught passes with Hair three for 65 yards, Browder four for 57 and Montel Gladney four for 41 to lead the way. Collier was the CSC rushing leader with 12 carries for 60 yards.
Highlands was limited to 255 yards with Rango rushing 20 times for 138 yards. Guardiola connected on half of his 28 passes for 119 yards. Beckford had nine of the receptions for 86 yards, but the Cowboys’ top receiver coming into the game and last year’s RMAC Offensive Player of the Year, CJ Sims, had just three receptions for 21 yards.
Chadron State Head Coach Jay Long credited senior safety Brendan Brehmer with holding Sims in check, and also praised the entire defensive unit for a playing extra well.
“The line did its job really well and the others tackled well and nearly always were in the right place.,” the coach said.
Senior end Tayvan Bray was credited with three sacks and both O’Connor and Gabe Perkins had two.
First Downs 14 21
Total Net Yards 255 383
Rushes, Yards 38-136 42-105
Passing Yards 119 278
Passing 14-28-2 20-31-3
Return Yards 57` 32
Punts, Average 7-43.1 5-36.6
Fumbles, Lost 2-2 0-0
Penalties, Yards 6-65 3-30
N.M Highlands 0 3 0 0 —3
Chadron State 3 7 7 0 —17
CSC—Gunnar Jones 37 field goal
NMHU—Will McDaniel 42 field goal
CSC—Ahlote Hair 52 pass from Heath Beemiller (Jones kick)
CSC—Jamal Browder 8 pass from Beemiller (Jones kick)
Rushing: NMHU—Malakai Rango 20-139, Quavon Beckford 1-9, Joseph Reza 3-5, James Budett 1-2, Shawntay Mills 2-1, Gage Guardiola 11-minus 20. CSC—Dorian Collier 12-60, Jalen Starks 16-44, Jeydon Cox 3-10, Gunnar Jones 1-minus 1, Heath Beemiller 9-minus 8.
Passing: NMHU—Gage Guardiola 14-28-2 119 yards. CSC—Heath Beemiller 20-31-1, 278 yards, 2 TDs.
Receiving: NMHU–Quavon Beckford 9-86, CJ Sims 3-21, Cameron High 1-7, Jason Balbru 1-3, Malachi Rango 2-3, Joseph Reza 1-0. CSC—Jamal Browder 4-57, Montel Gladney 4-41, Ahlone Hair 3-65, Tommy Thomas 3-35, Grant Swenson 2-41, Peter Krohn 2-13, Jalen Starks 1-15, Jayden Cox 1-11.
Tackles: NMHU—Devin Coney 5-8, 13; Chris Calhoun 3-6, 9; Ben Sutton 4-4,8; Brendon Luper 4-2. CSC—Joey Geil 5-4, 9; Hunter O’Connor 1-8, 9; Brendan Brehmer 6-2, 8; Tayven Bray, 5-3, 8; Xavier Harrell 4-3, 7.