CHADRON, Neb. — September 27, 2018 — After coming off one of its biggest wins this decade, the Chadron State College football team will try to treat the old grads with another victory Saturday when the Western State Mountaineers visit rejuvenated Elliott Field. Kickoff for the Homecoming contest will be 1 o’clock.
Now 3-1 for the season, the Eagles have come from behind in the fourth quarter to win their last two games and raise hopes that they will continue to contend for a high finish in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.
Saturday’s 38-34 win over Colorado Mesa at Grand Junction apparently is the Eagles’ first over a ranked opponent since they nipped Abilene Christian 76-73 in triple overtime during the 2007 playoff donnybrook. For pure excitement, it also ranks with the 38-31 triumph over Colorado Mines in 2010 when all-time great Glen Clinton returned a kickoff 88 yards with a minute remaining to hand the Orediggers their only RMAC loss of the season.
Chadron State coaches said nearly everything went well against Mesa. The Eagles were able to both run and pass the ball while rolling up 645 yards of offense and pretty well contained Mavericks’ quarterback Eystin Salum, the conference’s reigning Offensive Player of the Year. CSC also had just one turnover and was called for only three penalties for 15 yards.
“I’m proud of our guys,” said CSC head coach Jay Long. “We were down by 10 points at halftime, but kept believing and working and won a tough game.”
Long said the Eagles’ ability to run the ball opened up the passing game and added that quarterback Dalton Holst got good protection, found the available receivers and threw the ball well. Long also commended offensive coordinator Chris Stein and receivers coach Logan Masters for working up “a great game plan and calling great plays.”
Defensive coordinator Jeff Larson said keeping Salum from breaking off a long run and the five sacks of the Mesa quarterback were also big factors in the outcome. Several of the sacks forced the Mavericks to punt.
Also high on the list of “moments that mattered” was the Eagles’ ability to use untested players to fill in for starting cornerbacks DeAndre Barthwell and Demetrius McFadden, who missed the game because of injuries. It is hoped both will be ready to play Saturday.
The CSC coaches caution that the Eagles can’t bask in the limelight of their big win and not be revved up for Western State.
The Mountaineers are 0-4, but have proven dangerous while playing their closest neighbors—Colorado Mesa and Adams State—tough the last two weeks.
Mesa jumped out to a 17-0 lead, but a 95-yard touchdown gallop by senior tailback Isaac Fuqua just before halftime and a 47-yard pass play with less than two minutes remaining in the game cut the final difference to 24-20.
Last Saturday, Adams State finally won 55-52 in overtime, but not before Western State had tallied 21 straight points to take a 49-41 lead with 3:30 to play. The Grizzlies then drove 75 yards for a touchdown and added a two-point conversion with 1:40 remaining to tie the score. Western State got first possession in overtime and booted a 37-yard field goal, but the Grizzlies scored a touchdown when they got the ball to pull out the victory.
Fuqua has run for 548 yards and scored six touchdowns in Western’s four games this fall. The Mountaineers have been using two quarterbacks about equally. They have combined to complete 71 of 123 passes for seven touchdowns. They’ve thrown five interceptions.
One of them, Cameron Shumway, a 6-6. 230-pound senior, is also a capable runner.
Prior to their games against Mesa and Adams State, the Mountaineers lost to Idaho State 45-10 and South Dakota Mines 38-21.
Two years ago when Western State visited CSC, the Mountaineers defeated the Eagles 24-15 behind the running of tailback Austin Ekeler, who now plays for the Los Angeles Chargers. He carried 37 times for 286 yards, third highest all-time against the Eagles. His 69-yard touchdown romp midway in the fourth quarter was the clincher.
The win was Western’s first over the Eagles this century. Last year at Gunnison, the Eagles came up with three takeaways late in the first half and turned each of them into touchdowns while just 76 seconds ticked off the clock. That helped the CSC take a 42-0 halftime lead and win 49-7.
Stein said one thing you can always count on when facing Western is that the Mountaineers’ defense will play hard.
The coaching staffs are familiar with one another.
Head coach Jas Bains, now in his eighth season at Western, was a graduate assistant and then the special teams coordinator at Chadron State a couple of years before going to Gunnison. And, defensive coordinator Todd Auer, who joined the Mountaineers in the spring of 2016, was on the CSC coaching staff 23 years, including the last 17 as the defensive chief.
Chadron State generally fares well in games when the alumni is looking on. The Eagles are 34-14-1 during their last 49 Homecoming games and have won 18 of the last 20.