No doubt about it, the Chadron State College football team expects to have its hands full Saturday when it hosts Colorado Mesa in a RMAC tussle. Kickoff for the Family Day contest will be at noon after the players and their parents have been introduced.
Like the Eagles, the Mavericks are 1-0 after overwhelming Western State 49-23 in their season-opener last Thursday night. It was 91 degrees in Grand Junction when the game kicked off, but the Mavs were just as hot. They scored on their first three possessions and continued to pour it on, holding a 49-3 lead after three quarters.
Mesa quarterback Eystin Salum, one of the relatively few new starters this fall, was a huge success, figuring in all seven of his team’s touchdowns. He completed 14 of 20 passes for 290 yards and five touchdowns and ran for the remaining two TDs.
The performance netted him the RMAC Offensive Player of the Week Award.
The Mavericks were 8-2 in the conference last year, losing to Black Hills State and Dixie State in mid-season games, but edging both Colorado Mines (41-40) and Colorado State-Pueblo (20-19) to share the RMAC title with the latter two teams.
Mesa then defeated Azusa Pacific 33-24 in the first round of the playoffs before losing to Texas A&M-Commerce 34-23 in the second round to finish 9-3 overall.
During the RMAC’s preseason balloting by the coaches this summer, Pueblo collected the most points with 93, one more than Mesa. Six Mavericks—three on both offense and defense—were placed on the RMAC’s preseason all-star team.
The offensive choices were running back David Tann, wide receiver Josh Brown and lineman Austin Fleer. The defensive nods went to end Blake Nelson, linebacker Tom Saager and back Dustin Rivas. In addition, Rivas was chosen the top return specialist.
Last fall when the Eagles visited Grand Junction each team ran 75 plays with Mesa rolling up 513 yards and the Eagles 446. Mesa, which scored on its first two possessions for a 14-0 lead, won by that margin, 47-33.
Mesa’s leaders in that game included wide receiver Virnil Moon, who caught five passes for 161 yards, including TD receptions of 50 and 81 yards, and Rivas, who picked off three CSC passes.
Chadron State, with TD Stein and Matt Vinson sharing playing time at quarterback, completed 25 of 43 passes for 347 yards, including touchdown passes of 76 yards from Stein to Marcus Brown and 69 yards from Vinson to Brandon Fullerton.
The Eagles also scored when Jack Dobyns blocked a punt and Zech James took it 55 yards to the end zone.
The Mavericks are coached by Russ Martin, a Scottsbluff native who was a CSC linebacker in the mid-1970s under coach Sparky Adams. This is Martin’s 39th year in coaching and his sixth at Mesa, where he has taken the Mavs to new heights.
Martin’s wife, the former Linda Hraben of Gering, is also a CSC graduate. Their son, Ben, who received his master’s degree from Chadron State in 2008 while spending several years on the coaching staff, is in his second year as the Mesa defensive coordinator.
During Coaches Corner at the Country Kitchen on Monday, Chadron State head coach Jay Long said his team is excited about playing Mesa. He noted that the Mavericks have lots of weapon, but he praised his team for overcoming a dismal start to down Fort Lewis 25-19 in its opener Saturday.
Long said the Eagles displayed lots of energy and determination and made big plays on both sides of the ball, gaining momentum as the game progressed.
Redshirt freshman Dalton Holst is expected to make his second start at quarterback for the Eagles. Vinson took over the position in the second half, both played well, the coaches said, and both could see action again Saturday.