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Eagles finally home again to play Hardrockers

Eagles finally home again to play Hardrockers
(Photo courtesy of Chadron State College)

CHADRON, Neb. — October 18, 2017 — After traveling nearly 6,600 miles to play its last three games, the Chadron State College football team will be at home for the first time in a month on Saturday, when longtime rival South Dakota Mines visits Elliott Field. Kickoff will be at noon.

Both teams are coming off satisfying wins.  The Eagles broke their two-game losing skid by rounding up the New Mexico Highlands Cowboys 55-35 and the Hardrockers surprised Colorado Mines 37-29 at home last Saturday.

Both teams are now 4-3 overall.  Chadron State is 4-2 and Mines is 3-3 in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.

The Hardrockers opened their season by defeating William Jewell College in Missouri 42-27 and topping Dixie State 35-16 at home.  Three setbacks followed. Colorado State-Pueblo won 34-14 in Rapid City.  Then, Black Hills State squeezed out a 25-24 verdict and Adams State prevailed 52-44, both on their home fields.

Prior to knocking off Colorado Mines, the Hardrockers thumped the Highlands Cowboys 52-14 at home.

The Hardrockers have a high-powered offense.  They lead the RMAC in total offense with a 500.9-yard average after totaling 536 yards against Adams State, 665 against Highlands and 537 last Saturday versus the Orediggers.

Chadron State is seventh in total offense with a 422.1-yard average, a 51-yard per game improvement from a year ago.

Defensively, the Eagles are giving up an average of 385.1 yards a game and the Hardrockers 428.9.

Quarterback Jake Sullivan, a native of Rapid City who was recruited by Chadron State, is the Hardrockers’ offensive leader.  He was selected by the RMAC coaches during their preseason balloting as the conference’s top quarterback, and has lived up to expectations.

He has completed 142 of 257 passes for 1,882 yards and 14 touchdowns this fall.  He’s been intercepted nine times.

Sullivan also can run.  While he’s lost 106 yards, mostly while being sacked, he’s also gained 518 yards and scored nine touchdowns with his feet.  His ability to tuck the ball and run after faking handoffs and/or looking to throw, makes the Hardrockers’ run-pass option scheme difficult to defend.

Sullivan is this week’s RMAC Offensive Player of the Week after carrying 26 times 120 yards and completing 24 of 50 passes for 334 yards against Colorado Mines on Saturday.

Sullivan’s role apparently is larger than it was a few weeks ago.  Running back Kevin Thompson is still the team’s leading rusher with 122 carries for 592 yards and had 30 totes for 181 yards against Adams State three weeks ago, but he carried only 12 times for 38 yards against Highlands, did not play against Colorado Mines and is not in the depth chart for this week’s game.

Dorian Cowart is now listed as the starting tailback.  He also can be effective.  He’s carried 67 times for 380 yards for a 5.7-yard average and has a 67-yard TD sprint. He had 10 rushes for 33 yards against the Orediggers.

Mines’ leading receiver is freshman Brandon LaBrie, who has 46 receptions for 667 yards and five TDs. Cowart has the next most catches with 23 for 213 yards.

The Hardrockers also kick the ball well. They’re five of six on field goal tries, including three-for-three vs. Colorado Mines, have made all 16 of their extra point attempts and punter Jared Stangler is averaging 41 yards.

Although the Chadron State-Mines rivalry dates back to 1912 and the teams had played one another 64 times, including 30 straight years from 1966 through 1995, they had not met on the gridiron for 20 years when they collided in Rapid City last year after the Hardrockers had been accepted into the RMAC.

Last year’s game was a thriller for the Eagles. Mines took advantage of two turnovers to go ahead 19-2 early in the second quarter, but the Eagles scored on three pass plays later in the period and trailed by just 26-23 at halftime. CSC then outscored the Hardrockers 14-7 in the second half for a 37-33 triumph.

CSC quarterback Matt Vinson, now the Eagles’ No. 2 signal caller behind redshirt freshman Dalton Holst, completed 27 of 48 passes for 330 yards and five touchdowns, four of them to Max Gray, in last year’s contest.  Sullivan completed 15 of 26 for 249 yards and four TDs.

The winner of the Saturday’s game gets possession of the Eagle-Rock Trophy for the next year.

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