CHADRON – After gaining just 266 total net yards and scoring only one touchdown in a 10-7 loss in their season-opener last Saturday, the Chadron State College football team piled up 599 yards and scored six TDs Saturday night while outscoring South Dakota Mines 41-25 at Elliott Field in Chadron.
The Eagles owned a 21-3 halftime lead and widened the gap to 35-10 early in the fourth quarter while retaining possession of the Eagle-Rock Trophy that goes to the winner.
Five of the game’s 10 touchdowns came in the fourth quarter, when a wet, heavy snow was falling, but did nothing to hamper either team’s offense. The long-time rivals combined for 1,047 yards.
Senior quarterback Dalton Holst had an exceptional game for the winners, completing 19 of 27 passes for 361 yards and two touchdowns. His leading receivers were senior Cole Thurness, a native of Rapid City, with eight catches for 175 yards and junior Chad Mikelson with six for 166 yards.
The Eagles also ran the ball well, gaining 238 yards on 46 plays. Jalen Starks, a transfer from UCLA who weighs in the neighborhood of 250 pounds, carried 17 times for 116 yards and scored on runs of one, four and nine yards.
“We played really well at the line of scrimmage and got the ball to our playmakers,” Chadron State Coach Jay Long said. “We had great practices this week and it showed. I couldn’t be much happier.”
Chadron State took the opening possession 78 yards in 12 plays with Thurness going the final four yards.
The Eagles’ next two touchdowns came on long drives after the Chadron State defense picked off Mines passes.
Cornerback Bobby Peele made a diving interception at the Eagles’ 25 midway in the second period. The Eagles scored in six plays with Holst’s 43-yard pass to Thurness the big gainer. Starks went the final yard on the next play.
After Mines’ Isaiah Eastman returned the ensuing kickoff 33 yards, the Hardrockers drove to the Chadron 24 before CSC safety Cole Condon stepped in front of the intended receiver in the back of the end zone for the second pick.
This time, the Eagles went 80 yards in seven plays with Holst and Thurness connecting on a 48 yard strike to ignite the drive. The hosts were facing a fourth and 12 when the Holst hit a wide open Mikelson, who was going full stride while catching a 32-yard scoring pass just 50 seconds before halftime to make it 21-0.
However, the Hardrockers got on the scoreboard on the final play of the half, when Enis Sefa booted a 43-yard field goal.
Mines posted the only points in the third quarter when freshman quarterback Jayden Johannsen dashed 20 yards to paydirt after he’d hit Collin Zur with a 25-yard pass.
The Eagles responded with a 75-yard drive that included a 35-yard pass to Mikelson on the last play of the third quarter and an 18-yard strike to Thurness in the end zone on the first play of the fourth, putting CSC ahead 28-10.
Chadron State scored again with midway in the final frame by going 88 yards on five plays. Holst connected with Mikelson on a 39-yard pass in along the south sideline. Starks rumbled for 25 yards on the next play and then went the final four yards to the end zone.
The visitors proved they also had lots of ammunition on the first play after the kickoff. That’s when Johanssen hooked up with Zur on a 65-yard bomb that went the distance.
The Hardrockers’ rookie quarterback also ran for the conversion, making the score 35-18.
But the Eagles were not to be denied. This time they used nine plays to go 76 yards and took more than five minutes off the clock. A Holst to Thurness pass for 24 yards moved the ball to midfield. Holst scrambled for eight yards to help overcome a holding penalty and freshman scatback Jeydon Cox (160 pounds) had two carries gain 14 yards before Starks entered the game and went to last nine to the end zone.
By this time heavy snow was falling, but Mines continued the fourth quarter scoring bonanza by going 79 yards on eight plays. The big ones were a 23-yard run by Johanssen and his 39-yard pass hookup with Eastman. All-star running back Ahmad Lewis went the final five yards with 37 seconds left in the game.
The Hardrockers finished with 448 total yards, meaning the long-time rivals accumulated 1,047 yards of total offense. That’s just five yards shy of last year’s total when these teams also played in Chadron and racked up the 12th highest number of combined yards on the Eagles’ all-time list.
Johannsen completed 17 of 30 passes for 246 yards and carried the ball 12 times for 109. Zur was his leading receiver with eight catches for 139 yards. Lewis carried 24 times for 90 yards. Eastman was another weapon for the visitors, returning five kickoffs for 127 yards,
The two teams, now both 1-1 in the abbreviated season, will meet again in Rapid City on Halloween evening.