After at least matching Colorado Mesa in nearly every category except on the scoreboard last Saturday, the Chadron State football team will tangle with Western State Colorado University in Gunnison this Saturday in Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference action. It will be the Mountaineers’ home opener. Kickoff will be at 1 p.m.
Western State has played two neighboring rivals on the road without good results. Colorado Mesa led 49-3 after three quarters and won the season-opener 49-23 while Adams State rolled up 587 yards in total offense against Western en route to a 51-14 on Saturday.
Western was ahead of Adams State 14-10 with six minutes left in the second quarter, but trailed 31-14 at halftime and the Grizzlies added three more touchdowns in the third period.
The Mountaineers are seeking a new identity. The past four years, they depended heavily on tailback Austin Ekeler for much of their offensive punch. Now a member of the Los Angeles Chargers in the NFL, Elkeler ran for 5,857 yards during his career, second only to Danny Woodhead among RMAC rushers.
Ekeler certainly had a great game against the Eagles last season, carrying 37 times for 283 yards, third all-time against CSC. His 69-yard touchdown romp midway in the fourth quarter was the clincher during Western’s 24-15 win during Family Day at Elliott Field.
After two games this fall, Western has 259 yards rushing and 484 passing. The foes haven’t done much better on the ground, gaining just 268, but have thrown for 818 yards and 10 touchdowns.
The new Western tailback is sophomore Justice MacNeal-Young, who has carried the ball 33 times for 135 yards this fall, and the quarterback is freshman Dylan Jacob, who has thrown every pass for the Mountaineers so far.
Rodray Perkins, who is 5-8, 175, about the same size as CSC’s record-setting receiver Jackson Dickerson, has 18 receptions for 129 yards.
Dickerson was quarterback Dalton Holst‘s favorite target against Mesa when had 16 catches, the most in Eagles’ history, for 137 yards.
Holst also racked up big numbers against the Mavericks. He completed 41 of 73 passes, both No. 2 on Chadron State’s list, for 459 yards, sixth best all-time among CSC quarterbacks.
Head coach Jay Long said Holst played “a great game” and answered the challenge of playing against Mesa’s veteran and talented defense. The coach complimented the Eagles’ offensive line for protecting Holst so he was not sacked while throwing the ball 73 times.
But despite the big passing numbers, the Eagles managed just one touchdown during the 24-10 setback.
CSC head coach Jay Long said during practices this week lots of emphasis has been put on becoming more consistent on offense and finding ways to keep drives alive.
After falling behind 14-0 in the first period, the Eagles pretty well abandoned their running game against Mesa and finished with only 56 yards rushing.
Long was complimentary of the Eagles’ defense, noting that it “always kept us in the fight.” He noted that Mesa lost yardage on 11 plays, including four quarterback sacks.
Chadron State outgained the Mavericks 515 to 387 yards.
Like last week when the Eagles played the Mesa, which is coached by CSC grads Russ and Ben Martin, the Chadron State staff is very familiar with the Western coaches.
Head coach Jas Bains, now in his seventh season at the helm, was a graduate assistant and then the special teams coordinator at CSC a couple of years before moving to Gunnison.
In addition, defensive coordinator Todd Auer, who joined the Mountaineers two years ago, was on the CSC coaching staff 23 years, including the last 17 as defensive coordinator.