With just two games remaining on the schedule, the Chadron State College football team must win them both to have a winning season. The first of those games will be the home finale on Saturday against first-time opponent, Western Oregon University. Kickoff is set for noon.
The Eagles are 4-5 for the season. After hosting the Wolves, they’ll finish by visiting Black Hills State at Spearfish on Saturday, Nov. 13.
A winning record generally means the team had quality. Since 2000, the Eagles have won more games than they lost 17 times, had just three years when they dipped below .500 and one when they broke even. The latter was last year when CSC finished its abbreviated schedule at 2-2.
Western Oregon, which has a 3-5 record, is located at Monmouth, a community of about 10,000 in northwestern Oregon, not far from the Pacific Ocean. It has about 6,600 students and belongs to the Great Northwest Athletic Conference that includes nine schools, but only two others, Central Washington and Simon Fraser, located in Canada, play football.
The three teams play each other twice each season. This fall, the Wolves have defeated Simon Fraser 24-7 and 42-3 and lost to Central Washington 45-14 and 53-21.
The Wolves opened their schedule with three non-conference losses—42-3 to Colorado Mines, 24-10 to Texas A&M-Kingsville and 21-7 to Portland State.
After the first win over Simon Frasier, Western hosted West Texas A&M and defeated the Buffaloes 41-38 by scoring a touchdown with only 17 seconds left to wrap up an 89-yard drive. The lead changed hands seven times. The Wolves racked up 553 total net yards and West Texas 533.
Through eight games, Western has rushed for 1,466 yards and given up 1,327 on the ground. The Wolves have thrown for 1,565 and allowed 1,540 yards through the air.
The team’s leading rusher is Omari Land, a 5-11, 185-pound junior, with 146 carries for 806 yards and nine touchdowns. Senior Andrew Valladares has rushed 46 times for 299 yards.
Quarterback Ryan Worthley, 6-2, 210, has thrown 95 percent of the team’s passes, completing 146 of 232 for 1,470 yards and eight scores. He’s been intercepted six times. He has spread his passes around. Four Wolves have caught at least 20, led by 6-6, 195-pound junior Thomas Wright with 31 receptions for 378 yards and three TDs.
This is Arne Ferguson’s 17th season as the Western head coach. He entered the season with a 90-72 cumulative record. Like the Eagles’ Jay Long, Ferguson played football for the team he now coaches, earning all-conference honors three times. He concluded his playing days in 1988, joined the WOU coaching staff the following season and has been associated with the program ever since except for one year when coached at a high school.
In order to win, Long said his team must avoid some of the lapses that were costly early in the game last Saturday at Colorado Mines, when the Orediggers jumped out to a 27-0 halftime lead and went on to win 34-7. The coach was pleased that the Eagles played better in the second half and hopes they can execute well in the home finale to help build momentum for next season.
Prior to kickoff Saturday, the nearly 20 seniors on the CSC roster will be introduced. A majority of them have spent their entire college careers with the Eagles. They include linebacker Zane Hamilton, quarterback Dalton Holst, receivers Chad Mikelson and Colt Thurness, offensive lineman Jake Norris, Austin Rapp and Emmitt Rosentrater, defensive linemen Brendan Hopkins and Kael Juelfs, linebacker Noah Kerchal, long-snapper Chase Thurness, defensive lineman Jordan Watt and defensive back Ethan Zimmerman.
Others such as offensive tackle Justin Calderon, linebacker Travis Wilson, defensive backs Ju’Waun Murphy and Bobby Peele have given the Eagles a boost after transferring. Unfortunately, one of the best, linebacker Jeremiah Makahununiu, another transfer, was sidelined by an injury in the fifth game this fall.