Eagles final home game Saturday

CHADRON – The Chadron State College football team will wrap up its home schedule Saturday by hosting Fort Lewis College in a crucial Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference game for the Eagles. Kickoff will be at noon after CSC's 15 seniors have been recognized.

The Eagles, who are 7-2 for the season and 6-1 in the RMAC, are hoping to advance to the NCAA Division II playoffs and cannot afford to stumble in either of their remaining games. They will wrap up the regular-season slate on Saturday, Nov. 16 at Colorado Mines.

Even though West Texas A&M, which edged the Eagles 34-31 in the season-opener, lost on Saturday to Eastern New Mexico 39-38 and fell to ninth in the Super Region 4 rankings that will determine the six playoff teams from the region, CSC remained in seventh place on the list. That's because Grand Valley State of Michigan, which was eighth last week, moved into the No. 6 slot ahead of the Eagles after defeating Hillsdale College 31-21.

The other teams in the top six, in order, are CSU-Pueblo, Ohio Dominican, Saginaw Valley of Michigan, Midwestern State of Texas and the University of Indianapolis. Probably the best hope that one of the six teams will be knocked off will be on Nov. 16 when Saginaw Valley and Grand Valley collide.
Like the Eagles, the Grand Valley Lakers are 7-2. None of the teams in the top five has lost more than once. Pueblo and Ohio Dominican, a 57-14 winner over Grand Valley, are 9-0.

But first things first. The Fort Lewis program appears to be on the upswing. The Skyhawks are 4-5 on the season and 3-4 in the RMAC. They lost all 10 games a year ago and hadn't won more than three games in a season since 2006 until this year.

The head coach this year is John L. Smith, who last year at this time was the head coach at the University of Arkansas and also has been the head coach at Idaho, Utah State, Louisville and Michigan State. Smith, who entered this season with a 136-94 career record, was lured to Fort Lewis by the school's president, Dene Kay Thomas, and the athletic director, Gary Hunter.

Hunter was the athletic director and Thomas was an associate dean when Smith was the head coach at Idaho, beginning in 1989.

Smith, who is the uncle of Kansas City Chiefs' quarterback Alex Smith, has brought in an array of new talent. Just one of the players listed as a probable starter on defense for Saturday started against the Eagles a year ago and only five of this year's offensive starters were starters a year ago.

The Skyhawks are coming off two narrow victories. They edged Western State 10-9 two weeks ago and shaded Adams State 27-24 last Saturday. Fort Lewis topped Adams State when Kip Castanha kicked a 24-yard field goal with no time remaining after a personal foul penalty had been assessed against the Grizzlies. Castanha also connected on three more field goal attempts in the game and is this week's RMAC Special Teams Player of the Week.

Prior to the two straight wins, Fort Lewis beat Oklahoma Baptist 23-14 and Western New Mexico 38-18. The Skyhawks have lost to Southern Utah (49-0), New Mexico Highlands (31-20), CSU-Pueblo (35-3), Colorado Mines (51-16) and Colorado Mesa (42-0).

The team's top rusher is Dewaun Wesley, a 5-9, 185-pound junior who has carried 131 times for 468 yards. Sophomore Jordan Doyle and junior Max Baiz have shared the quarterback duties. Doyle has completed 67 of 139 passes for 660 yards and Baiz has hit on 62 of 125 for 713 yards. They have combined to throw eight touchdown passes, but the opponents have struck for 24 TDs through the air.

Doyle Bode is the Hawks' leading receiver with 28 catches for 292 yards and three touchdowns. The team's leading tackler is middle linebacker Joey Alvarez, who is credited with 60 solo tackles, including 12 for lost yardage.

The Skyhawks' coaching staff includes Micah Smith, former Chadron High and Chadron State wide receiver and kick return specialist. He's the wide receivers' coach. His father, Brad, is the Eagles' all-time winningest football coach and was the CSC athletic director for 26 years until retiring this year.

The 15 Chadron State College seniors will be recognized prior to kickoff on Saturday make up another outstanding class that has had lots of success on the gridiron. All seven of the offensive players are starters and three more at slated to start on defense for their final home game. Several of the others are key alternates on defense.

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