The Chadron State College football team was improved this fall and the foundation was laid for more improvement, head coach Jay Long believes.
The Eagles won six games, double the number of the previous year, and displayed renewed passion and pride.
Long credits this year’s seniors to leading the way to a bright future.
“We had 15 of them this year,” Long said. “They stuck with us, loved what our program represents and what we are about. They are great individuals with high grade point averages and will be successful in life.
“They gave us their best and their work ethic and energy have rubbed off on rest of our players,” the coach continued. “That’s why we say they laid the foundation for the future. I’ve met with 106 players since the season ended and they have high expectations and are excited about what the future holds.”
Long and his staff believe this year’s freshman class is an excellent one and will play a big role in filling vacancies being left by the seniors.
Most of the immediate needs are on defense. Six of the seniors—Truett Box, Mitch Collicott, Collin Eisenman, Tyler Kiess, Garrett Patterson and Tanner Wintholz—saw a bulk of the action in the defensive front, and four more—Steve Allen, Trey Mosley and Brian and Ryan Wood—were stalwarts in the secondary.
“We’re going to need a lot of young guys to step up and help fill these positions,” defensive coordinator Jeff Larson noted. “We expect to find a few junior college players to give us experience in places, but there are some really promising young players on our roster that we are confident will do the job.”
The fact that all the linebackers will return is a huge plus for the defense. For the second year in a row, Chadron sophomore Kennan Johnson was the team’s leading tackler, taking part in 90 stops. Pesky classmate Tyler Lewis was involved in 61 tackles and returned both a fumble recovery and an interception for touchdowns.
Merritt Crabtree at linebacker, starting cornerback DeAngelo Barthwell, alternate cornerback Cliff Harris, safety Zech James and end Kyle Temple, also saw lots of playing time and are due to return.
The CSC defense tied for second in the nation for most defensive touchdowns with seven. Besides, Lewis’s pair, Mosby converted two fumbles he recovered into TDs, redshirt freshman Cole Thurness blocked a punt and recovered the ball in the end zone, Stevann Brown returned a punt that was blocked by Colton Wright for a TD and Brian Wood set a school record when he took an interception 100 yards to the opposite end zone.
Wood also the team’s second leading tackler with 83 and led the Eagles in both kickoff and punt returns.
With Barden among those blocking for him, Jackson concluded his career high on several CSC all-time lists. He carried 183 times for 1,058 yards this fall for his second 1,000-yard season (1,046 in 2015) and finished with 3,101 rushing yards, fifth all-time.
Led by his 14 touchdowns this fall, Jackson finished with 35 TDs, fourth best in CSC history, and he is seventh in career all-purpose yards with 3,792.
Senior-to-be Kevin Coy, who rushed for 420 yards and scored six TDs this fall, will be the leader to take over at tailback when spring practice begins.
The passing game should be strong in 2018 after redshirt freshman quarterback Dalton Holst and a quintet of sophomore receivers demonstrated lots of promise this fall.
Holst completed 200 passes for 2,337 yards, both all-time highs for first-year quarterbacks at CSC.
Jackson Dickerson was the Eagles’ busiest receiver with 78 receptions for 746 yards and classmates Colt Foster (42-561), Stevann Brown (25-315), Brandon Fullerton (22-371) and Tevon Wright (22-293) also were favorite targets.
Dickerson reception total was No. 2 in the RMAC and also is second on the CSC single season list, just four behind Brandon Harrington’s 82 in 2008.
Up front, the Eagles will return four starters—center Jake Geil, guard Adam Fuselier and tackles Travis Romsa and Jared Maciejczak. They joined with Barden in allowing an average of only one sack a game.
If the Eagles gave a newcomer of the year award this fall, it would undoubtedly go to transfer punter Zack Kozlik, who booted the ball 62 times for 41.4 yards and earned RMAC Special Teams Player of the Week honors twice. Twenty-one of his punts were downed inside the 20-yard line.
The CSC special teams also ranked high in returns. Their 24.1-yard kickoff return average tied for first in the conference and their 12-yard punt return average was second.
Total Net Yards
Chadron State 105 116 79 34 ----334
Opponents 78 102 2 59 ----291
Others & Team
*2-pt PAT +Morgan was 7-12 on field goals
Tackles for Losses—Truett Box 11.5-32 yards, Collin Eisenman 9.5-33, Tyler Kiess 9.0-47, Tyler Lewis 5.5-26, Brian Wood 5-13, Mitch Collicott 4.5-19,Kyle Temple 4.5-19.
Quarterback Sacks—Tyler Kiess 5.5-39 yards, Collin Eisenman 4-24, Truett Box 4-17,
Pass Interceptions—Brian Wood, 3-109 yards, Steve Allen 3-26, DeAngelo Barthwell 2-31. Tyler Lewis 1-22, Keenan Johnson 1-18, Truett Box, Merritt Crabtree and Chris Harris, all 1, 0 yards.
Passing PC PA Int. Yds. % TD
Dalton Holst 200 381 13 2336 52.5 14
Matt Vinson 29 40 2 312 72.5 3
TD Stein 6 2 0 50 50.0 0