The Chadron Cardinals got off to a rather slow start at Alliance on Friday night, led by just 6-0 at the end of the opening quarter, but limited the Bulldogs to only 83 total net yards and one touchdown en route to a 41-6 victory.
The long-time rivals are having contrasting seasons. With just two regular-season games remaining, the Cardinals are 7-0 and Bulldogs are 0-7.
“We played average, at best, early in the game,” Coach Mike Lecher said. “We played a sloppy first half. We weren’t as focused as we should have been. Alliance’s defense also was a factor. They’re always well-prepared for us. We didn’t get as many yards by going outside as usual.”
But in the long run, the Cardinals dominated the game. They finished with 20 first downs while Alliance had just four, one of them on a 50-yard touchdown run by quarterback Tyzan Brown in the third period for the Bulldogs’ only points. Chadron possessed the ball more than 32 minutes; Alliance less than 16.
Chadron quarterback Justus Alcorn continued to play well and perhaps did something no other Cardinals’ quarterback has done. He threw a pass for a touchdown, caught one for a TD and also ran for six points, meaning he was involved in three touchdowns in three different ways.
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The senior signal caller carried the ball 10 times for 48 yards and completed 11 of 16 passes for 127 yards.
Tailback Dawson Dunbar also had another outstanding game, rushing 14 times for 100 yards and catching eight of Alcorn’s passes for 47 yards while scoring three touchdowns for the second straight game.
Entering the game, Dunbar had just three receptions for 22 yards, but this season the Cardinals have come up with a variety of ways to utilize their array of talent.
Dunbar scored Chadron’s first touchdown on an 18-yard jaunt with just under four minutes remaining in the opening period.
The Cardinals went ahead 13-0 with 7:17 left in the second stanza when Alcorn and wide receiver Seth Gaswick hooked up on a 33-yard pass play. After missing the extra point attempt following the first TD, Gaswick also added the PAT this time and also booted the ensuing four.
Lecher noted that he felt much better about the way the game was going when the Red Birds scored their third touchdown with just nine second left before halftime. It came on about the same play that the Cardinals had unveiled the previous week against Sidney, but failed to complete.
It saw Alcorn take the snap from center, toss the ball to wide receiver Xander Provance and then head to the goal line. This time, Provance put more mustard on his pass over the heads of the defenders, Alcorn caught it and converted it into a 19-yard touchdown. Chadron 20-0 led after Gaswick kicked the extra point.
The Cardinals added 14 more points in the third period to complete good-sized drives with a mixture of runs and passes. Dunbar went the final four yards for the first touchdown with 6:10 left on the clock.
Just two minutes later, Brown went the distance from midfield for Alliance’s only touchdown and about the only effective play the Bulldogs managed.
With only four seconds left in the third, Alcorn went the final two yards for his rushing TD to make it 34-6.
Dunbar scored his third touchdown on a nine-yard burst with 8 ½ minutes remaining to wrap up the scoring. It’s the sixth time the Cardinals have posted at least 35 points and the fourth time they’ve eclipsed 40 points this season.
None of the opponents has score more than one TD against the Cards this fall.
Seventeen Chadron defenders were credited with making at least one tackle. But with Alliance making just four first downs, tackle opportunities were limited for the Red Birds. Five of the visitors’ tackles were quarterback sacks, and Alliance gained just 15 yards on the four passes it completed.
The Bulldogs were forced to punt nine times. The punter, Wade Sanders, was credited with a 36-yard average. A few of his longest were with the wind in the second half, sometimes forcing the Cardinals to take the ball a long ways to paydirt.
Gaswick was credited for two punt returns for 85 yards. His longest return, after he’d initially reversed his field, went to the end zone, but much of the yardage was obliterated by a blocking-in-the-back penalty.
Quinn Bailey also had a 32-yard punt return to help the Cardinals get favorable field position.
Chadron punter Cody Hall averaged 42.5 yards on his two punts. An Alliance partisan also noted after the game that the Bulldogs “couldn’t get any yards when they tried to run around the end where Hall was playing.”
Hall led the Cards with seven tackles while linebacker Rhett Cullers was credited with six and Dunbar and lineman Ryan Bickel with five apiece.
The Cardinals will now face what is expected to be their toughest game of the season this Friday night while playing at Gothenburg.
The Swedes rushed for 296 yards while defeating the Cardinals 35-14 last season in Chadron. Fullback Owen Geiken, one of just two seniors on last year’s team, gained 140 of those yards on 23 carries in that game. He also finished the season with 125 tackles while playing linebacker and was accorded first-team all-state honors at that position. Thankfully for the Cardinals, Geiken is gone.
But with nearly everyone else returning, the Swedes were expected to be strong again this year. However, they lost their first five games while being outscored by a 151-43 margin. Injuries reportedly contributed to the problem.
Things apparently have changed in October when they have taken on Mitchell and Sidney. Gothenburg pummeled Mitchell 34-6 two weeks ago and clipped Sidney 38-6 this past Friday night. The Cardinals also defeated Mitchell 44-8 and Sidney 35-6 this fall.
“I’m sure they’ll be our toughest opponent so far,” Lecher said. “I know their coach (Craig Haake) pretty well and he always does a great job.”
The only other times Chadron and Gothenburg have played in the past decade were in 2016 when the Swedes won 35-29 and in 2017 when the Cards prevailed 30-7.
; Chad.; All.
First Downs; 20; 4
Total Net Yards; 330; 83
Rushes, Yards; 36-184; 29-68
Passing Yards; 146; 15
Passing; 12-18-0; 4-8-0
Return Yards; 117; 48
Punts, Ave.; 2-42.5; 9-35.9
Fumbles, Lost; 1-1; 1-1
Penalties, Yards; 6-75; 6-45
Chadron 6 14 14 7 ----41
Alliance 0 0 6 0 -----6
Chad—Dawson Dunbar 18 run (kick failed)
Chad—Seth Gaswick 33 pass from Justus Alcorn (Gaswick kick)
Chad—Alcorn 19 pass from Xander Provance (Gaswick kick)
Chadron—Dunbar 4 run (Gaswick kick)
All—Tyzen Brown run (pass failed)
Chad—Alcorn 2 run (Gaswick kick)
Chad—Dunbar 9 run (Gaswick kick)
Rushing: Chad—Dawson Dunbar 14-100, Justus Alcorn 10-48, Xander Provance 2-19, Malachi Swallow 5-12, Quinn Bailey 4-5. All—Tyzan Brown 13-55, Wade Sanders 15-13, Jaden Dvorak 1-0
Passing: Chad—Justus Alcorn 11-16-0, 127 yards, 2 TDs; Xander Provance 1-1-0, 19 yards, 1 TD; Broc Berry 0-1-0. All—Tyzan Brown, 4-7-0, 15 yards; Kellen Muhr, 0-1-0.
Receiving: Chad—Dawson Dunbar 8-57, Seth Gaswick 1-33, Xander Provance 1-22, Justus Alcorn 1-19, Chayton Bynes 1-15. All—14 2-15, 7 1-5 16 1-minus 5.
Punt Returns: Chad—Seth Gaswick 2-85, Quinn Bailey 1-32. All—4 1-10. Kickoff Returns: All—Jayden McCracken 2-15, Nathan Ackerman 1-5, Wade Sanders 1-minus 5
Tackles: Chad—Cody Hall 3-4, 7; Rhett Cullers 3-3, 6; Dawson Dunbar 2-3, 5; Ryan Bickel 2-3, 5; Seth Gaswick, Ryan Vahrenkamp and Dayton Richardson, all 2-1, 3; Jesse Stolley 1-3, 4; Quinn Bailey and Xander Provance 1-2, 3.