The Chadron State College football team did something Saturday none of its predecessors had previously done. The Eagles wrapped up spring practice by hosting another team during its spring game. And, it appeared a “good time was had by all.”
In an effort to get things back on track for the 2021 season after the 2020 season was rudely interrupted by the Coronavirus, CSC Coach Jay Long and his Wayne State cohort, John McMenamin, agreed last fall to have to what they preferred to call, “a joint practice” this spring.
Since the Eagles had visited the University of Northern Colorado two weeks earlier while the Wildcats had hosted the Kearney Lopers that weekend, Wayne State agreed to travel this time and chartered four busses for the trip.
The Wayne State entourage was in for a special treat. Instead of immediately heading back east, the Wildcats went north and visited Mount Rushmore before going home.
Individual and group workouts preceded the scrimmaging. By then things were festive. The crowd in Don Beebe Stadium was probably the largest ever for a Chadron State spring football activity, largely because fans are eager to see college football in person again.
Just before noon, the four ex-Eagles who were to be inducted into the CSC Athletic Hall of Fame that evening and their families were introduced (see photo elsewhere in today’s Record) in the middle of Elliott Field. Next, the Homecoming court headed by queen Emily Hansen of Hemingford and king Damien Zuniga of Colorado Springs, who had been crowned earlier in the week, also were given a big round of applause to make up for what had not been celebrated last fall.
When football resumed, each team initially put its starters on the field and took turns possessing the ball at various yard lines. Before long the reserves took over, hoping they would win the approval of the coaches and move up on the depth charts.
Judging by the lack of scoring and the yardage, defenses had the upper hand, which is not unusual in spring games.
Wayne State scored first on a safety, after the ball was placed on the Eagles' own 1-yard line and the Wildcats tackled the ball carrier in the end zone.
Midway through the first quarter, the Wildcats began a drive at the CSC 40 and managed two first downs before missing a 39-yard field goal.
Almost immediately, the Wildcats claimed the only turnover. It occurred when Kevin Ransom intercepted a pass thrown by CSC's Tyler Hyland about 40 yards downfield.
WSC went ahead 5-0 late in the first quarter on a 28-yard field goal by Alex Powders. It was set up by a 36-yard pass from quarterback Tavian Willis, to Taurean Grady, who got wide open behind the Eagles’ secondary.
Wayne took a 12-0 lead midway in the second quarter on a 48-yard run by Jacob Keiser, who took a wildcat snap from center, broke to his left and went the distance to the end zone.
Chadron State scored late in the tussle on a 21-yard field goal by Drake Holden. It was set up when Ali Musa, made a spectacular diving catch of a 35-yard pass thrown by Hyland. A Wayne defender was tugging on Musa’s arm all the way down the field and after the catch was made, pass interference also was called.
That moved the ball to the WSC 9, half the distance to the goal line, but the Eagles had to settle for three points.
Although the Wildcats could technically claim victory, the Eagles sacked the Wayne quarterbacks three times, and allowed none on offense. The Wildcats, who brought just two quarterbacks, played their starter at the position much of the game.
Dalton Holst, CSC’s primary signal caller the past four seasons, including the four games the Eagles played last fall, took only 10 snaps Saturday, according to offensive coordinator Micah Smith. Most of the other offensive starters were on the field for fewer than half the approximately 50 plays the Eagles ran, he added.
“Our goal was to give everybody lots of reps (repetitions),” Smith said. “A major reason for spring ball is to find out who will be able to help in the fall. Now we’re looking at the films and getting ready to meet with the players before they leave for the summer.”
Long said he’s hopeful the NCAA will continue to allow some type of scrimmaging against another team each spring in the future.