(Neb.)- Eagles, Mavericks To Tangle For Homecoming
CHADRON, Neb. -- Two Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference teams coming off disappointing losses last weekend will tangle for the Chadron State Eagles' Homecoming contest Saturday. Kickoff will be at 1 p.m.
Although Chadron State outgained Fort Lewis College by 441 to 275 yards, the Skyhawks turned three Chadron State fumbles into touchdowns and won 37-30 at Durango. Meanwhile, Western Colorado State kicked a 29-yard field goal as time was expiring to slip past Colorado Mesa 30-28 at Grand Junction.
Both teams are 1-2 on the season, although one of Mesa's losses was to non-conference foe Eastern New Mexico two weeks ago 44-37 in overtime. Thus the Mavericks are 1-1 in the conference.
Both teams opened their seasons with wins in South Dakota. Chadron State rallied from a 17-0 halftime deficit to win 48-31 in Spearfish. Mesa trailed South Dakota Mines 30-23 early in the third period, but the Mavericks scored the game's final two touchdowns, sandwiched around a Hardrockers' field goal, to win 37-33.
The Eagles pulled out a pulsating 38-34 victory in Grand Junction last year, when the Mavericks were 3-0 and ranked No. 14 in NCAA Division II.
Chadron State owned a 14-10 first quarter lead, but never led again until going on top 31-27 early in the fourth period, only to see Mesa score again midway in the final frame.
However, the Eagles answered with a 72-yard drive in just five plays to regain the advantage with 5:13 to play. CSC forced the Mavericks to punt on their next possession and clinched the verdict when safety Tyree Fryar intercepted Mesa's pass in the end zone with 28 seconds remaining.
With sophomore quarterback Dalton Holst completing 26 of 40 passes for 409 yards and the running backs gaining 236 yards, the Eagles rolled up 645 total net yards, their seventh highest total all-time.
Each of Chadron State's scoring drives—five touchdowns and a field goal—covered at least 67 yards.
Mesa also moved the ball aplenty, amassing 483 yards. The teams' 1,128 cumulative yardage is the sixth largest ever in a game involving the Eagles.
Holst also had a big game against the Mavericks while seeing his first major action as a redshirt freshman in 2017 at Elliott Field. He completed 41 of 73 passes for what is still a career-high 459 yards, but the Eagles had problems scoring and Mesa won 24-10.
It was Mesa's third straight win over CSC, but after the Eagles pulled out last year's donnybrook, they have an 18-8 advantage in the series.
Holst has completed 70 of 126 passes for 975 yards and nine touchdowns this fall, and has thrown for 5,915 yards and 45 TDs so far in his career.
Mesa is breaking in a new quarterback after Eyestin Salum, the RMAC's Offensive Player of the Year in 2017, concluded his eligibility last fall. Salum wasn't as effective last season, but still threw for 2,356 yards and 17 touchdowns.
The replacement seems to be sophomore Aaron Howard, who has completed 46 of 71 passes for 444 yards and six touchdowns in the first three games. He was 20 of 31 for 223 yards and two TDs against Western Colorado and also scored on a one-yard plunge.
The Mavericks have one of the conference's top receivers in senior Peter Anderson. He's caught 19 tosses for 367 yards and three scores this season. A year ago he ranked second in the RMAC with 67 receptions for 1,344 yards and 11 TDs.
Anderson certainly had a big day against the Eagles last year. He hooked up with Salum for a 75-yard touchdown on the game's first play, later caught a 45-yard TD pass and finished the game with 11 receptions for 266 yards.
Mesa's primary running back is sophomore Isaac Maestas, who carried 19 times for 139 yards last Saturday and has 260 yards rushing for the season.
Another Mavericks' weapon appears to be placekicker Lucas Ruiz-Dias, who has made all four field goals he's attempted and is 12 of 13 on extra point attempts.
The Mavericks are coached by Russ Martin, a Scottsbluff native who was a Chadron State linebacker in the mid-1970s under coach Sparky Adams. This is Martin's eighth season at Mesa, where his teams are always competitive.
CSC coach Jay Long calls Martin a wily opponent who finds ways to spread the ball around and keep defenses off stride. Martin's son, Ben, a former CSC assistant coach, is the Mavs' linebackers' coach.
More than 20 of Martin's CSC teammates from 1973-76 are expected to attend Saturday's game.
Chadron State hopes to have some key players who did not play or saw only limited action at Fort Lewis available on Saturday. They include inside receiver Jackson Dickerson, running back Elijah Myles and punter-placekicker Will Morgan.
Long was pleased that Austin Rapp, a starter at offensive guard last fall, has been cleared to resume playing and shared playing time against the Skyhawks.
After defeating Western Colorado 40-22 in the homecoming game last year, the Eagles have a 35-14-1 record since 1969 while playing before the Old Grads.
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