Eagles To Play At Kearney On Saturday

Photo Courtesy: Dede Long Photography, CSC Sports Info

After a nine-year hiatus, the Chadron State College football team will renew its intrastate rivalry with the University of Nebraska-Kearney on Saturday afternoon in Kearney. Kickoff will be at 2 o’clock Mountain time.

The Eagles and the Lopers were not planning to meet this year until the COVID-19 pandemic interfered with sports schedules worldwide. Neither of their conferences are sponsoring championship competition this fall, but CSC and UNK are among a handful of NCAA II teams wanting to play, so the game has been arranged.

This will be the fourth contest for the Eagles this fall and second for Kearney. CSC is 2-1 after losing its opener in overtime and defeating South Dakota Mines twice, 41-25 and 37-22. The Lopers opened their abbreviated schedule last Saturday with a 31-26 win at Pittsburg State in Kansas.

Eagles’ Head Coach Jay Long played center on Chadron State teams that edged the Lopers four years in a row in the late 1990s. He said winning those games was among the highlights of his athletic career, and he’s excited that the rivalry is being revived.

“Playing Kearney is one of my greatest memories,” Long said. “They were terrific games and I’m sure Saturday’s game will be another tough, physical contest.”

The rivalry dates back to 1921. Kearney leads the all-time series 49-21-1, largely because the Antelopes, as they were known in those days, won 31 of 32 games between 1948 and 1991. The exception was in 1978 when they tied 10-10.

After Kearney joined the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference in 1996, the Eagles and the Lopers met on the gridiron annually for 16 years. Chadron State won the first six of those games, just one of them by more than six points, and also won four more times before 2012, when Kearney moved to the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association.

Saturday’s game will feature a pair of outstanding quarterbacks. Chadron State senior Dalton Holst has completed 674 passes for more than 8,800 yards and a total of 73 touchdowns during his top-notch career, while Kearney sophomore TJ Davis is an option quarterback who loves to run. He was named the MIAA Freshman of the Year last fall, when he ran for 1,034 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Last Saturday against Pittsburg, Davis carried 21 times for 91 yards and scored touchdowns on runs of four, one, two and one yards. Long called Davis “a dynamic special player.”

Chadron State also ran the ball well against South Dakota Mines last Saturday, rushing for 203 yards. Freshman Jeydon Cox carried 10 times for 92 yards and junior Jalen Starks 15 times for 71 yards.

Starks finished the two games against the Hardrockers with 187 yards rushing and five touchdowns.

Eagles’ linebacker Travis Wilson also had a top game last Saturday. He intercepted a pass and returned a kickoff 38 yards to help set up two of CSC’s touchdowns. He also helped sack the quarterback in the fourth quarter.

Long said his team will need to tackle well Saturday to keep the Lopers contained.