This Saturday, the rivalry continues between the Chadron State College Eagles and Black Hills State University as the two meet to begin their seasons for the second straight year. Kickoff at Lyle Hare Stadium, in Spearfish, is set for 6 p.m.
In a reverse of last season, the game will be the Yellow Jackets first night game at home since 2010. Last season, after renovations to Elliott Field and Don Beebe Stadium in Chadron, the Eagles hosted BHSU for CSC’s first night game in 42 years.
The two teams will no doubt hope they don’t see a repeat of last year’s weather that delayed kickoff about two-and-a-half hours. As of Tuesday, the National Weather Service forecast a chance of showers and thunderstorms Saturday night.
Despite the rain delay, the Eagles came out of the gate strong last season and cruised to a 45-8 victory. Over their last two meetings, CSC has outscored BHSU 80-22.
The Eagles are 52-14-2 all-time against the Yellow Jackets but are on just a two game win-streak in the series. BHSU’s last win came in November of 2016 when they picked off then CSC quarterback Matt Vinson three times for 21 points in a 21-19 win. According to CSC Sports Information, it was the Eagles first loss to the Yellow Jackets since 1986.
The Eagles enter the season ranked third in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Pre-Season Coaches Poll, while the Yellow Jackets are ranked ninth.
Both teams return veterans to each side of the ball, 13 for BHSU and 19 for CSC, but both have also had losses since last season. For the Eagles, gone are center Jake Geil and running back Kevin Coy Jr., from the offense and corner Malik Goss and linebacker Keenan Johnson on defense.
Coy rushed for 962 yards last season as CSC’s premier back, but Eagles' Offensive Coordinator Logan Masters is confident in their current corps of running backs that includes senior Stevann Brown, sophomore Elijah Myles and junior Priest Jennings. Brown had 1,115 all-purpose yards in 2018.
Significant graduations for BHSU include quarterback Ryan Hommel who threw for 1627 yards and eight TDs last season; and safety Drew Hebel who had three interceptions in 2018.
According to the BHSU athletics department, a battle for the starting quarterback position has been ongoing through the preseason. The team’s two-deep roster for Saturday’s game lists sophomore Andrew Tovar, of South El Monte, California, as the starter.
A transfer from the University of Arizona, Tovar threw for 10,567 yards and 142 TDs as a three year varsity starter in high school.
Tovar will look to connect with returning receivers Kielar Harpham who had 379 yards on 42 passes last season, and Jordan Pace who had 324 on 33 catches.
In front of Tovar, the Yellow Jackets return their entire offensive line from last season and running back Payten Gilmore, who rushed for 793 yards and 9 TDs last season will be a threat. Gilmore was listed as a Player to Watch in the RMAC Pre-Season Coaches Poll.
Leading the Eagles’ offense will be Dalton Holst, who new CSC Offensive Coordinator Logan Masters calls the best quarterback in the RMAC. Holst threw for 2,603 yards and 22 TDs last season. He’ll have a strong group at tight end with the return of Colt Foster who caught 42 passes in 2017, but spent 2018 injured, and Matt Vargas.
Holst will also have a talented corps of receivers to throw to including Jackson Dickerson, Brandon Fullerton, Tevon Wright and Cole Thurness, all leaders from last season.
On defense, returners Calder Forcella and Brandon Hopkins return to the defensive line for the Eagles. Defensive Coordinator Craig Jersild believes the line could be three players deep and the strength of the entire Eagles defense.
RMAC Player to Watch Tyler Lewis and Travis Wilson will provide leadership among the linebackers. DeAndre Barthwell and Demetrius McFadden at cornerback, and Tyree Fryer at safety, will bolster the secondary.
According to BHSU’s athletic department, RMAC Player to Watch Jarrell Ganaway will transition to the defensive line this season. Ganaway had five sacks and two interceptions last year. He also contributed 66 tackles. Defensive back Josh Gurnaby will join Ganaway in providing leadership for the defense. Gurnaby had 87 tackles and two interceptions last season.
Both teams have had coaching changes at the coordinator positions. In Chadron, both hires came in-house as Logan Masters was promoted to offensive coordinator and Craig Jersild was promoted to defensive coordinator. At BHSU, Mitch Dahlen was hired as offensive coordinator. Dahlen comes to the Yellow Jackets from Boise State University where he was assistant wide receivers coach and quarterbacks coach. He has previous offensive coordinator experience with the College of Idaho from 2016-2018, according to BHSU’s athletics department.
Devin Fulton contributed to this story.