GOLDEN – The Chadron State College football team made lots of big plays on both offense and defense Saturday, but was unable to keep pace with Colorado School of Mines, losing to the Orediggers 49-20 in the regular season finale in Golden.
The Eagles posted 464 yards of total offense, right at their season average, intercepted three passes to thwart Mines’ scoring drives and also blocked a field goal. But the high-powered Orediggers would not be denied.
Already the NCAA Division II leader in total offense with a 560-yard average, Mines racked up 763 yards against the Eagles.
“No doubt about it, we played a potent football team today,” Chadron State head coach Jay Long said. “We did a lot of things well, but they showed us why they have had such a great season. They are hard to stop.”
The Orediggers finish their schedule 10-1 and are 9-1 in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. Another RMAC team, Colorado State-Pueblo, concluded its schedule with the same marks and both are expected to advance to Super Region Playoffs this coming weekend.
The Eagles finish at 7-3 and share third place in the conference standings.
Mines opened the game by going 75 yards in 11 plays on its first possession. Tailback Cameron Mayberry went the final five yards and was to finish the day with 21 carries for 207 yards and three TDs.
The Eagles retaliated with a 15-play, 80-yard scoring drive that consumed more than six minutes, accomplishing exactly what they wanted to do–keep the ball away from the Orediggers.
A 35-yard pass from quarterback Dalton Holst to redshirt freshman Chad Mikelson was the drive’s big gainer. Tailback Kevin Coy went the final yard.
The second quarter was filled with big plays, but to the Eagles’ dismay, Mines built a 28-7 lead.
Quarterback Isaac Harker, who completed 14 of his first 15 passes and 23 of 33 overall for 372 yards, connected on a 42-yard pass with all-star Brody Oliver to ignite the explosion.
About two minutes later, safety Austin Toussaint returned an interception 56 yards to paydirt. The Orediggers struck again midway in the frame when Harker and Oliver hooked up on a 57-yard bomb to set up Mayberry’s 3-yard scoring plunge.
After the three touchdowns had lit up the scoreboard, the next three possessions were halted by interceptions, two of them by the Eagles.
The first pick was by CSC cornerback DeAndre Barthwell in the end zone after the Orediggers had driven 71 yards. Moments later, the Eagles had moved into Orediggers’ territory, only to have Holst’s pass bounce off the hands of receiver Tevon Wright as he tried to make a diving catch and snatched by the Miners’ Adam Leonard.
As time was about to expire before halftime, the Eagles’ senior safety Zech James picked off another Harker pass in the end zone.
The Colorado team went ahead 35-7 early in the third quarter by cashing in on an 85-yard drive. Mayberry’s sidekick, Brandon Farmer, went the last eight yards.
But before the quarter ended, the Eagles had narrowed the gap to 35-20.
The first CSC touchdown was set up by the team’s third interception of the day. Cornerback Demetrius McFadden swiped the pass and returned it 17 yards to the Mines 40. Moments later Holst and Mikelson teamed up for a 22-yard scoring pass.
Then, on the first play after Jake Giel, the Eagles’ offensive center, blocked the Orediggers’ 21-yard field goal try, a pair of CSC sophomores, Holst and Cole Thurness, connected on a spectacular 80-yard scoring strike.
The back-to-back touchdowns had the Eagles’ fans fired up, hoping their team might be able to mount another come-from-behind rally, like CSC had already done four times this fall.
It didn’t happen. On the Eagles’ first possession of the fourth period, the punter uncharacteristically muffed it. Mines got possession at the CSC 26 and soon scored on Farmer’s 11-yard run.
The next time the Eagles got the ball, Holst was sacked and fumbled the ball away. The Orediggers managed just one first down on that possession, but with less than two minutes remaining, Mayberry, a junior, broke away on a 43-yard romp for his third touchdown of the day. His 200-plus yards rushing Saturday gives him than 1,600 for the season.
For the first time this season, the Eagles had trouble moving the ball on the ground, finishing with just 52 yards. The passing game took up a lot of slack. Holst completed 32 of 63 passes for 412 yards, his season-high.
Mikelson, a Julesburg, Colo., product, entered the game with just four receptions for 53 yards, but caught 10 tosses for 147 Saturday. Bolstered by his 80-yard scoring catch, Thurness finished with six receptions for 111 yards.