Eagles To Tangle With No. 14 Orediggers Saturday

Emma Jurewicz/CSC Sports Info

The Chadron State College football team will have a major challenge Saturday. After waltzing past Fort Lewis 60-7 this past Saturday while evening their record at 4-4, the Eagles will take on Colorado Mines in Golden. Kickoff will be at noon.

On the other side of the coin, the Orediggers are coming off their first loss of the season. Colorado Mesa defeated Mines 26-21 in Grand Junction. There are now four teams with a single loss at the top of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference standings. Upstart Western Colorado is 6-1 while Mines, Colorado State-Pueblo and Mesa are all 5-1.

The Eagles are next with a 4-3 conference record. Their three conference losses have been dealt by Western (23-10), Mesa (24-17) and Pueblo (42-17). Saturday’s game will be their opportunity to upset the last of the “big four” they will play this season.

The Colorado Mines football program has made a huge improvement in recent years, switching from an also-ran to a dominant power.

The Chadron State-Mines rivalry dates back to 1938. When the Eagles joined the RMAC in 1990, the Orediggers had 7-5 lead in the all-time series. The Eagles are now ahead 23-19, but haven’t won since 2013.

During the 1990s when the teams began playing one another on an annual basis, Chadron State won nine of the 10 games, and outscored the Orediggers 183-25 in the final four games of the decade.

Chadron State also won the first four games in the 2000s before Mines nipped the Eagles 40-39 and 27-26 in 2004 and ’05. CSC won the next three games during the Danny Woodhead-Joe McLain era. Mines was victorious in both 2009 (30-27) and 2011 (31-24) while the Eagles prevailed in 2010 (38-31 when Glen Clinton returned a kickoff 88 yards late in the game) and 2012 (20-14).

Mines has won each of the last seven games, capped by its 70-28 triumph two years ago at Elliott Field.

The two dominant players in that game are the Orediggers’ kingpins again. Quarterback John Matocha, a true freshman then, completed 14 of 19 passes for 243 yards and four touchdowns and running back Michael Zeman, then a junior, rushed 20 times for 229 yards and two TDs.

So far this year, Matocha has completed 152 of 218 passes (69.7%) for 1,653 yards and 22 touchdowns. Zeman is again the Orediggers’ leading rusher with 195 carries for 928 yards and 11 TDs.

At Grand Junction last Saturday, Matocha completed 17 of 29 passes, but for just 134 yards, and Zeman carried 31 times for 112 yards. Mesa, meanwhile, threw for 293 yards and ran for 96.

Chadron State quarterback Dalton Holst has completed 135 of 235 passes (57.4%) for 1,853 yards and 15 touchdowns this fall, and is closing in on 11,000 yards passing during his career. After carrying the ball for 90 yards the past two games, he is now the Eagles’ all-time total offense leader with 11,027 yards.

Because of an injury, the Eagles have been forced to play without their leading running back, Elijah Myles, the past three games. Young players have taken up much of the slack. Second-year tailback Jeydon Cox and true freshmen Dorian Collier and Brock Ping have combined to rush 95 times for 563 yards, an average of almost six yards, and six touchdowns during Myles’ absence.

Chadron State Coach Jay Long said his team is looking forward to the challenge of playing the Orediggers.

“It’s a great opportunity for us, and we believe we can play with them if we execute our game plan and play four quarters of good football like we’re capable of doing. Mines leads the conference in a lot of the defensive areas, but we’re a good team on both sides of the ball, too. I’m excited to see what happens.”

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