Kaleb Center, Sports Information Director
CHADRON – Just two touchdowns were scored during Chadron State College’s spring football game Saturday morning, but both them were spectacular and Head Coach Jay Long said he was happy with nearly every aspect of the contest.
“Any time the Eagles win and there are no injuries, I’m happy,” Long said.
The question could be asked, “Did the Eagles’ win?” because the final score was 15-15. Well, they didn’t lose and both the Red and White units could leave the field feeling good about their performances.
“I thought we had a great atmosphere,” Coach Long continued. “We didn’t have any glaring errors, there were no turnovers and just four or five penalties. But most of all we had great energy and made some big plays on both sides of the ball. Everybody played hard and seemed to have fun.
“I think we showed lot of promise for this fall,” he continued. “There are places where we need to get better, but at least we’re on the right track. I also believe we’ve got really good candidates for playing time at nearly every position.”
How about those touchdowns?
Both came on pass plays and showcased the arm strength of the Eagles’ young quarterbacks and the receivers’ ability to catch the ball. Young signal callers saw most of the action because Dalton Holst, a junior this fall, has been the starter the past two years and saw limited action Saturday.
The first TD occurred midway in the third period with sophomore quarterback Tyler Hyland at the controls of the white team. He completed a nine-yard pass to senior wide receiver Tevon Wright, then looked to pass again, but kept the ball and ran for 15 yards to midfield.
Two plays later, Hyland lofted a long pass that Wright went high and caught in the west end zone. Officially, the pass covered 39 yards but it was actually nearly 49 because Wright in the back of the end zone when made the grab.
Early in the fourth quarter, another young quarterback, Brady Fullmer, a graduate of Southeast High at Yoder, Wyo., also hooked up with Wright. This time the line of scrimmage was the White’s 15. Wright, one of three CSC senior receivers who have played since they were freshmen, hauled in the pass just past midfield and set sail to the east end zone for an apparent 85-yard touchdown.
However, the officials ruled Fullmer had been “sacked” before he launched the pass. Some wondered how a quarterback could throw the ball so far and on target after he’d been sacked, but spring game rules said quarterbacks had to only be touched by a defender, not wrapped up or knocked down, to call the play dead.
More big pass plays were to follow. The first saw another freshman quarterback, Riley Hill of Greybull, Wyo., connect with Chad Mikelson, who made a one-handed grab that carried inside the Red 10 for a 33-yard gain.
But the drive died there, when junior linebacker Louis Smith halted the white team’s march with a nine-yard sack, and that’s when the biggest play of the game unfolded. It even had a dress rehearsal.
The first time, Fullmer threw a pass that freshman Riley Schliep grabbed near midfield. He was immediately tackled by defenders Thomar Smith and Malik Goss, but the catch was nullified when Schliep was called for offensive interference.
That brought the ball back to the Red 10 with less than a minute remaining on the clock.
Apparently since the play had worked once, why not try it again? Fullmer’s pass was another dandy. Schliep, an all-stater at Grand Island Northwest in 2017 when he caught 52 passes for 1,031 yards and 11 touchdowns, made another sparkling catch at about the same spot on the field. This time, no flags were thrown, Schliep managed to shake off the defenders and raced to the west end zone to complete the amazing the 90-yard play.
The game had other big plays, including the very first one, when Hyland connected with Mikelson on a 40-yard catch and run. The longest run was a 41-yard jaunt by sophomore Elijah Myles, who was finally run out of bounds and landed in a pile of snow that had been removed from the field by the players and coaches on Friday so the game could be played.
Although the Eagles later showed a penchant for pass plays in the second half, one of the reasons there were no touchdowns in the first half was the punting by senior Will Morgan. Already the team’s placekicker, he may also have claimed the punting duties, as twice his punts landed out of bounds or were downed inside the one-yard line, leaving the respective offenses 99 yards from paydirt.
In between, Morgan also launched a 50-yarder.
Additional “points” were awarded in between quarters, when individuals on each side competed head to head in imaginative contests of skill.
In the first such contest, sophomore long snappers Myles Mendell and Chase Thurness squared off in a “punt, pass, and kick” contest, where Mendell earned the first three points of the game for the cardinals by kicking a field goal from about the 10-yard line.
Then at halftime Mikelson won both of his “pass rush” faceoffs with fellow receiver McKade Smith, and skill players Trey Thornburg and Aaron Howard, a newcomer at the semester break, each won one against each other. That made the score 4-3 for the cardinal team entering the second half.
Wright’s touchdown made it 10-4 White, but several of the linemen lined up to catch punts in the break before the fourth quarter. White caught two, to the cardinal team’s one. With each worth two bonus points, the fourth quarter began with White still ahead 14-6.
That’s when the connection from Fullmer to Schliep brought the score to within two points, but cornerback Zachary Carlson thwarted the cardinal two-point conversion attempt with a pass breakup in the end zone.
In one final contest, the linemen went out for passes while trying to cover each other in a drill every big man only dreams of putting into a gameplan. The game ended in a 15-15 tie when cardinal won those faceoffs three to one.
The Eagles will have one final week of low-contact practices before calling it off for finals.