Eagles Preparing To Play Hardrockers Again

Photo Courtesy: McKenna Jones, CSC Sports Info

After having its home game against Black Hills State last Saturday afternoon cancelled because the Yellow Jackets had several players stricken with or quarantined because of the coronavirus, the Chadron State College football team is preparing to play its second straight game against South Dakota Mines this Saturday.  Kickoff will be at 4 p.m. in Rapid City.

Black Hills notified Chadron State last Thursday that it would not be coming to play the Eagles. CSC Athletic Director Joel Smith said the college was totally supportive of the Yellow Jackets’ decision.
Naturally, cancellation of the game was disappointing to the Eagles. Head Coach Jay Long said soon afterwards the coaching staff and players began concentrating on playing this Saturday and are hoping the remaining three games scheduled for this fall will be played.

After the trip to Rapid City, the Eagles are due to visit Nebraska-Kearney on Nov. 7 and Black Hills on Nov. 14. Both of the latter games are slated to kick off at 2 p.m. Mountain Time.

While the Eagles were idle on Saturday, the Mines Hardrockers defeated Colorado Mesa 24-9 in Grand Junction in something of a mild surprise.

Mesa entered the game 2-0 after edging the Eagles 10-7 in overtime at home on Oct. 10 and romping past Black Hills in Spearfish 56-7 a week later while Chadron State was downing the Hardrockers 41-25 at home. 

Mines had beaten Black Hills 34-17 in both team’s season opener on Oct. 10 in Rapid City.

While the Eagles jumped out to a 21-3 halftime lead and were ahead by at least two touchdowns the rest of the way against Mines, the Hardrockers demonstrated they have lots of clout and can never be taken lightly.

Chadron State racked up 599 yards against Mines, but the Hardrockers garnered 448 yards, dropped a likely touchdown pass early in the game and were deep in CSC territory when the Eagles intercepted two passes to kill the threats.

After the picks, the Eagles’ offense took it from there, putting together six touchdown drives of 75 or more yards for a remarkable accomplishment.

Quarterback Dalton Holst completed 19 of 27 passes for 361 yards, including eight tosses to Cole Thurness for 175 yards and six to Chad Mikelson for 166. The Eagles also rushed 46 times for 238 yards, led by Jalen Starks, the 250-pound transfer who carried 17 times for 116 yards and three touchdowns.

Starks’ performance netted him the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference’s Offensive Player of the Week honor.

South Dakota Mines’ win over Mesa Saturday was its first in five games between the teams since the Hardrockers joined the RMAC. The visitors led 17-2 at halftime, added another touchdown in the third quarter and didn’t let the Mavericks reach the end zone until early in the fourth period.

Neither team came up with a high number of yards.  Mines had 333 and Mesa 261, while turning the ball over three times. The Hardrockers’ first touchdown came on a 32-yard interception return. 

Mines used a new quarterback at Mesa. Jayden Johanssen, the freshman transfer who started the first two games and completed 17 passes of 30 passes for 246 yards and ran 12 times for 109 yards against the Eagles, did not play.

His replacement was Spencer Zur (6-1, 200), a sophomore from Park City, Utah.  He completed 16 of 23 aerials for 178 yards and ran 10 times for 49 yards.  There is no word on why the switch was made.

The Hardrockers’ major weapon is junior tailback Ahmad Lewis (5-11, 190) of Tacoma, Wash. He romped for more than 1,300 yards while earning all-RMAC honors last season and carried 24 times for 90 yards against the Eagles two weeks ago.  Long commended the Eagles’ defense for limiting Lewis to fewer than 100 yards and a 3.8-yard average. 

“He’s a really special back,” Long said while discussing the upcoming game. “It almost always takes more than one player to stop him.” 

Long added that he knows his players will be charged up, ready to play Saturday.

“I’m sure it will be another really entertaining game,” the coach noted “They always are when we play Mines.”

While Chadron State has defeated Mines in all five games the teams have played since the Hardrockers joined the RMAC in 2016, three of them were decided by just three, four and five points. In those five games, the rivals have combined to average 75.8 points.  

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