By Con Marshall BOX SCORE
Particularly early in the game, the Chadron State Eagles had everything clicking while jumping out to a 29-0 first quarter lead, then went on to defeat New Mexico Highlands 46-16 in a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference clash in Las Vegas, N.M., Saturday afternoon
The Eagles cashed in long drives on their first two possessions, returned a fumble on the kickoff return following the second touchdown and went 65 yards for another TD late in the opening quarter. They added a field goal and another touchdown in the second quarter to own a 39-0 halftime margin.
The host Cowboy, who entered the game averaging nearly 475 yards in total offense, struck for two TDs in the third quarter, but the Eagles intercepted three passes deep in their own territory in the second half, including one that linebacker Jeremiah Makahununiu returned 85 yards to the end zone, to seal the verdict.
“It feels good to have everything on track,” Coach Jay Long said. “Highlands has a very explosive offense, so to hold them to their fewest points of the season feels good. We got off to a great start and played well in every aspect of the game.”
Quarterback Dalton Holst, who became Chadron State’s all-time career passing yardage leader during the game, figured prominently in three of the Eagles’ first quarter touchdowns.
He connected with Cole Thurness, who made a one-handed catch in the end zone, on a 37-yard pass for the first score, ran the final seven yards for the second touchdown and then late in the quarter hit Chad Mikelson, who made an over-the-shoulder grab as he crossed the goal line for another TD.
All three drives covered between 65 and 70 yards.
Following the second touchdown, the Highlands’ player returning the ensuing kickoff was hit hard, the ball popped free, and freshman Braden Sanderfeld caught it in the air and raced 25 yards to paydirt.
Placekicker Gunnar Jones, who also made all five extra points he attempted, put the Eagles ahead 32-0 early in the second quarter when he booted a 28-yard field goal shortly after safety Cole Condon had recovered a Highlands fumble. Just before halftime, alternate tailback Jeydon Cox bolted up the middle for a 12-yard TD.
The Cowboys put together long touchdown drives on their first two possessions of the second half. Tailback Kamari Mosby scored on an 11-yard jaunt and quarterback Ramone Atkins bolted up the middle 25 yards for the second.
Highlands threatened again early in the fourth frame, but Chadron State safety Bobby Peale intercepted Atkins’s pass in the back of the end zone to kill the threat. The Cowboys were deep in CSC territory again when Makahununiu picked off Atkins’ pass at the line of scrimmage and romped 85 with it. The return is the fifth longest with an interception for a touchdown in Eagles’ history.
Peele swiped his second pass of the day and his fourth of the season just before the game ended, giving the Eagles five takeaways in the contest.
Another CSC defensive back, Ju’Wan Murphy noted said the Eagles, now 2-3 for the season and 2-1 in the RMAC, “played an entire game” and added “everything looks better when you win.”
The Eagles finished with 404 total net yards. Holst completed nine of 21 passes for 232 yards while connecting with Mikelson on three tosses for 80 yards and three with Thurness for 43. Mikelson also caught a 2-point conversion pass following CSC’s first TD. The pass was thrown by linebacker Travis Wilson, who also played quarterback part-time in high school.
Holst has now thrown for 10,268 yards for the Eagles. Jonn McLain had the old yardage record of 10,125.
Freshman Dorian Collier was the Eagles’ leading rusher with 11 carries for 76 yards while Cox carried nine times for 61.
The Cowboys had 435 yards with Adkins completing 12 of 21 passes for 209 yards. He also carried 16 times for 100 yards.
The Eagles will host perennial power Colorado State-Pueblo for homecoming next Saturday, Oct. 9.
First Downs 19 26
Total Net Yards 404 435
Rushes, Yards 35-172 47-226
Passing Yards 232 209
Passing 10-22-1 12-21-3
Return Yards 141 84
Punts, Average 5-39.4 5-31.0
Fumbles, Lost 3-2 1-0
Penalties 3-25 9-92
Chadron State 29 10 0 7 —-46
N.M. Highlands 0 0 14 2 —–16
CSC—Cole Thurness 37 pass from Dalton Holst (Travis Wilson to Chad Mikelson)
CSC—Holst 7 run (Gunnar Jones kick)
CSC—Braden Sandersfeld 25 fumble return (Jones kick)
CSC—Mikelson 27 pass from Holst (Jones kick)
CSC—Jones 28 field goal
CSC—Jeydon Cox 12 run (Jones kick)
NMHU—Kamari Mosby 11 run (Will McDaniel kick)
NMHU—Ramone Atkins 25 run (McDaniel kick)
NMHU—Safety, tackled CSC quarterback in end zone
CSC—Jeremiah Makahununiu 85 interception return (Jones kick)