CHADRON, Neb. — After having their three-game winning streak snapped at Adams State two weeks ago by the unlikely score of 65-62 and having an open date last Saturday, the Chadron State Eagles will strive to get back in the victory column this Saturday while hosting the Dixie State Trailblazers from St. George, Utah. Kickoff for “Friends and Family Day” will be at noon.
Now 4-2 for the season and fourth in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, the Eagles desperately need a win if they are to finish in the upper echelon of the conference. Dixie’s 5-1 mark in the RMAC puts it in a tie with Colorado State-Pueblo for second in the conference behind 7-0 Colorado Mines.
Both the Eagles and the Trailblazers still have dates with the Orediggers.
This will be the third meeting between Chadron State and Dixie since the Utah school joined the conference. The Trailblazers have won both contests rather handily, taking the inaugural game two years ago at Elliott Field 44-27 and winning 38-24 last year at home.
In last year’s game, the Eagles tied the score at 24-24 early in the fourth quarter, but the Trailblazers drove 70 and 87 yards for touchdowns to seal the verdict.
Dixie State also has staged late rallies to win its last four conference games this season.
After Pueblo blasted the Trailblazers 56-14 in the season-opener, Dixie whipped Fort Lewis 31-3 to launch its five-game winning skein in the RMAC. But the next four wins have been nail-biters decided by a touchdown or less.
The Blazers nipped New Mexico Highlands 28-23, South Dakota Mines 51-47, Black Hills State 41-38 and Western State 17-10 last Saturday. Each of the winning touchdowns came with less than three minutes remaining. The victory at Black Hills State was with only 41 seconds left.
Dixie couldn’t work its magic while playing No. 2 ranked Grand Valley State at Allendale, Mich., in a non-conference clash on Oct. 6. The Lakers won 35-14, despite holding just a 382 to 321 advantage in total net yards.
While the Trailblazers don’t have many glowing team statistics or individuals with impressive numbers, the Chadron State coaches are leery of Saturday’s foe.
“They have a lot of good players,” said CSC defensive coordinator Jeff Larson. “They use lots of formations and looks while trying to confuse the opposing defense. They can both run and throw the ball.”
Larson added that Dixie’s contingent of skill position players is about as good as any team in the conference possesses.
The Trailblazers have used three quarterbacks who have combined to complete 123 of 232 passes for 1,732 yards and 10 touchdowns. They have thrown seven interceptions. Generally, Easton Smith, a 6-4, 200-pound sophomore, has been at the helm when Dixie staged its winning rallies.
Xavier Smith, a 5-10, 175-pund junior, is the leading receiver with 23 catches for 415 yards and three TDs. The leading rusher is Sei-J Lauago, a 5-7, 170-pound junior who has carried 129 times for 515 yards and five TDs.
Another asset is freshman punter Josh Carlson, whose 44.7-yard average leads the RMAC.
Defensively, Dixie generally brings lots of pressure. Ends Remington Kelly, 6-3, 235, and Anthony Yarbrough, 6-3, 215, have combined to sack enemy quarterbacks 15 times to lead the conference. Seven of the sacks came last Saturday against Western State, which retaliated by dumping Dixie signal callers six times.
“They’re a good team that has a really good defense,” said CSC head coach Jay Long. “We’ll have to be ready to play.”
Long said the week off came at a good time, helping several Eagles who had been banged up get healthier and allowing others to have fresher legs for the final four games of the season. The break also came when mid-term testing was taking place.
The game at Adams State was a wild and wooly one that the Eagles would like to forget, but probably can’t. Both teams scored nine touchdowns, but the Grizzlies also kicked a field goal to get the win.
One oddity saw the teams combine to score at least 40 points in three of the quarters, but both were scoreless in the third stanza.
Admittedly, the Eagles gave up way too many yards and points. Adams State ran 97 plays and had the ball more than 37 minutes while the Eagles possessed it less than 23. The margin was especially lopsided in the fourth period. The Grizzlies had the ball 12 minutes and the Eagles just three, but each team scored three touchdowns in the frame.
Both the 35 first downs and 658 total net yards that Adams State accumulated are exactly the same as Bemidji State of Minnesota posted in 2004 as the all-time highs against the Eagles. The yardage total even exceeds the 653 yards that Abilene Christian managed in the 76-73 triple overtime playoff shootout that CSC won at Elliott Field in 2007.
The latter game was the only time the Eagles have given up more points than Adams State scored against them two weeks ago.
The Eagles set a rather dubious RMAC record while returning 10 kickoffs for 317 yards. The latter figure exceeds the old mark of 271 yards that Adams State racked up during the Eagles’ 56-0 victory over the Grizzlies in 2007.
Other CSC’s highlights included an 83-yard touchdown jaunt by senior tailback Kevin Coy in the second quarter. It’s the 10th longest run from scrimmage in Eagles’ history. He’s now rushed 104 times for 497 yards and nine TDs this fall.
In addition, Zack Kozlik punted four times for a 49.8-yard average, the highest ever for the Eagles.
CSC quarterback Dalton Holst completed a season-low 12 passes, but five of them went for touchdowns. His previous career-high was three.
Holst is 107 of 183 for 1,436 yards and 13 TDs this season. He was intercepted twice by Adams State after throwing just one pick in the first five games.