(Neb.)- Eagles Open Season At Black Hills State Saturday
CHADRON, Neb. -- Long-time rivals Chadron State and Black Hills State will open their football seasons Saturday night in Spearfish, hoping to get off to a winning start and contend for Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference laurels. Kickoff is set for 6 o'clock.
Last year's game in Chadron was memorable. It was the first played at Elliott Field after it had been updated in the summer of 2018.
That season-opener was due to begin at 6:30 p.m., but a rain and lightning storm delayed the kickoff until 9 o'clock and it was nearly midnight before the Eagles wrapped up the 45-8 victory.
Both teams are well-stocked with veterans this year, particularly after adding several transfers to give them more punch.
Chadron State finished 7-3 while sharing third place in the RMAC a year ago. The Jackets were 3-8 overall and 2-8 in the conference to finish ninth.
CSC Head Coach Jay Long, who was the head coach at Black Hills three years before moving to his alma mater in 2012, thinks the Eagles have the ability to challenge for the championship this fall. They should have a potent passing game, triggered by junior quarterback Dalton Holst, who has thrown for 4,935 yards and 36 touchdowns while calling the shots the past two seasons.
Long says the Gillette, Wyo., native deserves to be called an all-star candidate.
Four receivers--seniors Jackson Dickerson, Brandon Fullerton and Tevon Wright and junior Cole Thurness--have returned after combining to catch 145 passes for 2,077 yards and 21 touchdowns last season.
Also available is tight end Colt Foster of Hemingford, who missed last season because of an injury, but caught 42 passes in 2017. Senior Matt Vargas also returns at tight end after earning second-team all-RMAC while replacing Foster a year ago.
CSC Offensive Coordinator Logan Masters said three players--seniors Stevann Brown and Priest Jennings and sophomore Elijah Myles--may share the ball carrying duties about equally.
The offensive line is led by Jared Maciejczak, 6-5, 295 pounds, who has started at right tackle the past two years but is the center this season.
Defensively, the Eagles may not have as many recognizable names, but the new coordinator, Craig Jersild, and his staff are dedicated to reclaiming the strangle hold CSC once had on RMAC defensive supremacy.
"We've tried to get better every day," Jersild said. "We've simplified things and want to play with great intensity. We hope to get the ball for the offense by creating turnovers."
Returning starters Calder Forcella and Brendan Hopkins are expected to anchor a solid front line, middle linebackers Tyler Lewis and Travis Wilson are seasoned veterans who have made big plays during their careers and Long says DeAngelo Barthwell ranks among the best cornerbacks in the conference.
Three players from the area, senior Micah Scherbarth of Gordon and sophomores Brendan Brehmer and Bryant Wilson, both of Alliance, are ticketed for big roles for the CSC defense.
Thirteen starters from a year ago return at Spearfish. That includes the entire offensive line, which is a bit bigger than the Eagles', along with running back Payten Gilmore, who rushed for 793 yards and nine touchdowns in 2018.
The Jackets will be breaking in a new quarterback after four-year starter Ryan Gilmore graduated. Five candidates were in the replacement battle with Andrew Tovar, a 6-foot-2. 175-pound sophomore, getting the starting nod after transferring from the University of Arizona.
According to the Black Hills State website, Tovar threw for 10,567 yards and 142 touchdowns at Cathedral High at El Monte, Calif., while earning the conference's Most Valuable Player award three times. He beat out the Jackets' alternate from last year for the job.
Black Hills Head Coach John Reiners, a CSC graduate and former assistant coach, said he's happy how his team's preseason has gone and that the Jackets are opening the season healthy.
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