The Chadron State College football team will make its home debut Saturday, hosting the South Dakota Mines Hardrockers in the second of six games on the Eagles’ schedule this fall. Kickoff at Elliott Field will be 5 p.m.
The Chadron State-Mines rivalry dates back to 1912, the second year CSC was open. While the Eagles lead the series 50-18, three of the victories the last four years since the Hardrockers joined the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference and the rivalry was resumed have been highly entertaining donnybrooks.
Those scores were 37-33 in 2016, 50-46 in 2018 and 53-48 last fall, when the 101 points were the second highest in a Chadron State regular season game, the lead changed hands eight times and the 1,052 combined total net yards were 12th in Eagles’ history. CSC also won the 2017 game by a 29-17 margin.
A year ago, the Hardrockers ran 103 plays from scrimmage, 40 more than CSC, but the Eagles racked up 573 total net yards as quarterback Dalton Holst threw for 364 yards and four touchdowns and tailback Elijah Miles rushed 28 times for 193 yards and two scores. Mines finished with 499 yards.
Both teams opened their abbreviated 2020 schedules Saturday. The Eagles’ defense played well but their offense struggled during a 10-7 overtime setback at Colorado Mesa. The Hardrockers defeated their other arch-rival, Black Hills State, 34-17 in Rapid City.
Confronted by a strong defensive front, the Chadron State had difficulty moving the ball against Mesa. The Eagles gained just 266 total net yards and didn’t score until 25 seconds remained in regulation play. Lack of experience undoubtedly contributed to the struggle. Holst and Chad Mikelson, the game’s receiver with seven receptions for 82 yards, were the only CSC skill position players who had previously seen significant action.
South Dakota Mines out-yarded the Black Hills 442 to 218 yards behind senior running back Ahmed Lewis, who carried 26 times for 166 yards and two touchdowns, and freshman quarterback Jayden Johannsen, who completed 15 of 22 passes for 149 yards.
Despite Mines’ 3-8 record last fall, Lewis, who is 6-foot, 200 pounds, earned first-team RMAC honors while rushing for 1,385 yards. Although he did not score in the game, he carried 44 times for 179 yards against the Eagles last fall.
The Hardrockers’ quarterback a year ago, Toby Smith, completed only 17 of 46 passes versus CSC last season, but six of them went for touchdowns. Now a sophomore, Smith is still on the roster but has lost his starting job to Johannsen.
Listed at 6-2, 205, Johanssen was the quarterback at Sioux Falls Washington High School when the Warriors went 33-2 and won three consecutive state championships. He initially enrolled at North Dakota State, but redshirted there in 2019 and transferred to Mines.
The Hardrockers have a new head coach this fall. He is Charlie Flohr, a native of Gillette, Wyo., and a 2002 graduate of Dakota State at Madison, S.D. He had spent the past 14 years as the offensive coordinator at perennial power Northwest Missouri State, which played in seven NCAA Division II national championship games during that time.
The Eagles also will be at home on Saturday, Oct. 24 for a 2 o’clock game against Black Hills State. The last three games on the schedule will be on the road. They will meet the Hardrockers in Rapid City on Oct. 31, play at Nebraska-Kearney on Nov. 7 and at Black Hills State in Spearfish on Nov. 14.
CSC Athletic Director Joel Smith said seating Saturday night will be limited to 75 percent of capacity in Don Beebe Stadium, which has a capacity of 3,500. Fans are encouraged to wear masks, wash or santitize their hands and practice social distancing.
Tickets may be purchased in advance through Chadroneagles.universitytickets.com. Reserved tickets will be $16, adults general admission $13 and $11 for youths and seniors. They also will go on sale two hours prior to kickoff at the Elliott Field ticket booth.
Fans will be ushered out of the stadium after the game and will not be allowed to go onto the field.