Eagles ready for West Texas

CHADRON – After throttling Colorado Mines' potent offense and overcoming a dose of winter weather, the Chadron State College football team is back in the NCAA Division II playoffs for the first time since 2008. The Eagles will host West Texas A&M at noon on Saturday.

"They are an explosive offense and they're a team who has put up a lot of points," head coach Jay Long said. "We know that we are going to see a great team. We are in the elite group of teams now and our guys are excited to go against them."

The NCAA playoff qualification is the Eagles' eighth since they initially qualified in 1996.

Both Chadron State and West Texas finished their regular seasons with 9 wins and 2 losses. The Eagles get to host the first-round playoff game by ranking third in NCAA's Super Region 4, while the Buffaloes from Canyon, Texas, are sixth.

The two top seeds in the region, Colorado State-Pueblo and Ashland University of Ohio, are both 11-0 and received first-round byes.

The Chadron State-West Texas winner will advance to the second round game to be hosted by Ashland on Saturday, Nov. 24. The other first-round matchup this Saturday will send another Lone Star Conference team, Midwestern University of Wichita Falls, Texas, to play the University of Indianapolis. That winner will play at CSU-Pueblo on the 24th.

West Texas A&M and Chadron State have met previously in the playoffs in Chadron. That was in 2006, when the Buffs had a 17-7 lead two minutes into the second quarter, but the Eagles rallied to win 43-17 despite the fact that starting quarterback Joe McLain was sidelined by a sprained ankle in the first period.

Danny Woodhead, who carried the ball 35 times for 252 yards and scored four touchdowns, led the Eagles to victory. The CSC defense also throttled the Buffs' offense, allowing just five first downs and 45 total yards in the second half. The Eagles also blocked two punts that they converted into touchdowns.

The 2006 playoff victory was Chadron State's first. The Eagles also won their first playoff games in both 2007 and 2008 and are 3-7 in NCAA II playoff action.

The Eagles and the Buffaloes have played three common opponents this fall.

Colorado State-Pueblo, now 11-0 and the nation's No. 1 ranked Division II team, defeated West Texas 44-34 in the season opener for both teams. Six weeks later, Pueblo edged the Eagles 45-38 in overtime.

West Texas toppled Western State of Colorado 57-20 in its second game while the Eagles beat the Mountaineers 45-7 on Sept. 22. CSC beat Angelo State 19-7 in its second game while the Buffs romped past the Rams 35-9 on Oct. 6.

The Buffaloes' only loss other than to Pueblo came on Nov. 3, when they fumbled the ball away with 55 seconds left, Midwestern State recovered it and returned it for a touchdown to win 52-48.

West Texas bounced back on Saturday by whipping Texas A&M at Commerce 45-14.

The Buffs are pass-oriented, but also have an outstanding ball carrier.

Quarterback Dustin Vaughan, a 6-foot-5, 200-pound junior, has completed 260 of 401 passes for 3,552 yards and 35 touchdowns. He's thrown just seven interceptions, or one every 55 passes, and is one of 24 candidates for the Harlon Hill Trophy.

Vaughan has a bevy of receivers, led by Torrence Allen with 53 receptions for 956 yards and nine touchdowns. Nathan Slaughter is next with 44 catches for 525 yards.

Most of the Buffs' rushing yardage belongs to Khiry Robinson, a 6-0, 220-pound senior who has carried 152 times for 1,015 yards, an average of 6.8 yards. He's scored 11 of the Buffs' 16 rushing TDs.

The offensive line is huge. It includes senior Manase Foketi, once a Kansas State recruit, who is 6-5, 320 pounds, and junior Craig Watts, who is 6-4, 335 pounds.

The Buffs also have a tremendous placekicker. Junior Sergio Castillo has connected on 14 of 16 field goal attempts and all 56 of his extra point tries this fall. While he missed a 56-yard field goal kick against Pueblo, he's also booted one from that distance this season.

Defensively, Taylor McCuller has participated in 117 tackles and Kyle Voss is next with 89. Both are linebackers who weigh in the neighborhood of 240 pounds. No one else has more than 63 stops.

West Texas has the same coach as it did during its 2006 visit. Dan Carthel is now in his eighth season at Canyon. A&M had won just seven games in four seasons when he took over in 2005. Since then, he has led the program to a winning season every year and this is his sixth playoff team at the school.

Carthel's son, Colby, is the Buffs' defensive coordinator.

Chadron State has had a remarkable season under first-year head coach Long and his staff. The Eagles' only loss other than the overtime heart-breaker at Pueblo was to NCAA I-AA power Montana State in the season opener.

The Eagles have been solid in every facet of the game and have made it through the season with relatively few injuries.

Quarterback Jonn McLain has had an excellent season after missing most of last year with a broken thumb on his left (non-throwing) hand. He's completed 207 of 313 passes (66.1 percent) for 2,275 yards and 28 touchdowns. He's been intercepted six times.

Tailback Glen Clinton also has been spectacular. He's carried the ball 208 times for 1,302 yards (6.3 average) and seven TDs. His primary backup, Michael Madkins, has rushed for 429 yards and a 5.6-yard average.

The Eagles have a deep receiving corps, paced by Nathan Ross with 47 catches for 734 yards and nine TDs and Chapman Ham with 43 for 437 yards and four TDs.

Ross also is averaging 24.4 yards on 14 kickoff returns and Trelan Taylor is averaging 12.2 yards on 22 punt returns.

Taylor also has intercepted seven passes. Overall, CSC has picked off 19 passes to rank among the nation's leaders. It's been 16 years since the Eagles have swiped more passes.

Linebackers Kevin Lindholm with 111 stops and Shea Koch with 83 are the team's tackle leaders.

How well matched the teams appear to be may be reflected in this week's American Football Coaches Association poll. It has the Buffs ranked 14th and the Eagles 16th.

The probable starters:
Chadron State Offense
Wide receivers-Travis Reeves, 5-11, 200, Jr., and Nathan Ross, 5-11, 185, Jr.
Inside receivers-Chapman Ham, 6-2, 235, Jr., and Cody Roes, 6-2, 217, Sr.
Tackles-Garrett Gilkey, 6-7, 320, Sr., and Jake McCrary, 6-4, 260, Jr.
Guards-Mike Lorenzo, 6-2, 270, So., and Brandon Ratcliff, 6-0, 275, Sr.
Center-Sam Parker, 6-1, 280, So.
Quarterback-Jon McLain, 5-11, 185, So.
Tailback-Glen Clinton, 5-10, 200, Jr.
Placekicker-Alex Ferdinand, 5-10, 185, So.
Chadron State Defense
Ends-Keifer Burke, 6-3, 280, Sr., and Zach Sandstrom, 6-1, 255, So.
Nose tackle-Kyle Hinton, 6-1, 245, Sr.-Tau Ho Ching, 6-1, 265, Sr.
Outside linebackers-Shea Koch, 6-1, 220, So., and Kevin Lindholm, 6-2, 220, Sr.
Middle linebacker-Dylan Furrier, 6-1, 225, R-Fr.
Cornerbacks-Conor Casey, 6-2, 220, So., and Lane Haller, 6-3, 205, So.
Safetys-Bruce Huebner, 5-10, 190, Sr.; Trelan Taylor, 5-10, 195, Jr.; and Pierre Etchemendy, 6-1 200, Jr.-Cole Montgomery, 5-11, 195, R-Fr.
Punter-Josh Borm, 6-0, 190, So.
West Texas A&M Offense
Wide receivers-Travis Hammargren 6-0, 180, Jr.; Jarrian Rhone, 508, 175, R-Fr,; Lance Ratliff, 6-2, 180, Jr.; and Nathan Slaughter, 5-10, 185, Jr.
Tackles-Manase Foleto. 6-5, 320, Sr., and Patrick Ward, 6-4, 285, Jr.
Guards-Aaron Mullane, 6-5, 285, Sr., and Craig Watts, 6-4, 335, Jr.
Center-Casey O'Conner, 6-3, 290, Sr.
Quarterback-Dustin Vaughan, 6-5, 200, Jr.
Running back-Khiry Robinson, 6-0, 220, Sr.
Placekicker-Sergio Castillo, 5-11, 195, Jr.
West Texas A&M Defense
Ends-Shane Pennix, 6-4, 245, Jr., and Ethan Westbrooks, 6-4, 275, Jr.
Noseguard-Aaron Wampler, 6-1, 260, Sr.
Linebackers-Bryan Johnson, 6-4, 240, Jr., Kyle Voss, 5-11, 235, Jr.; Taylor McCuller, 6-2, 240, Jr.; and Shane Sobnosky, 6-0, 230, Jr.
Cornerbacks-Chris Ceazer, 6-0, 205, R-Fr., and Torian Oakley, 5-10, 180, So.
Safetys-Jordan Smith, 6-0, 190, Sr., and Curtis Slater, 5-9, 195, Jr.
Punter-Kevin VanVoris, 6-0, 235, Jr.

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