Just two touchdowns were scored during Chadron State College’s spring football game Saturday morning, but both were spectacular, and Head Coach Jay Long was happy with nearly every aspect of the contest.
“Any time the Eagles win and there are no injuries, I’m happy,” Long said.
The question could be asked, “Did the Eagles’ win?” because the final score was 15-15. Well, they didn’t lose and both the Red and White units left the field feeling good about their performances.
“I thought we had a great atmosphere,” Coach Long continued. “We didn’t have any glaring errors, there were no turnovers and just four or five penalties. But, most of all, we had great energy and made some big plays on both sides of the ball. Everybody played hard and seemed to have fun.
“I think we showed lot of promise for this fall,” Long continued. “There are places where we lack experience and need to get better, but at least we’re on the right track. I also believe we have really good candidates for playing time at nearly every position.”
How about those touchdowns?
Both came on long pass plays that showcased the arm strength of the Eagles’ quarterbacks and the receivers’ ability to catch the ball. Young signal callers saw most of the action because Dalton Holst, a junior this fall, has been the starter the past two years and saw only limited action Saturday.
The first TD occurred midway in the third period with sophomore quarterback Tyler Hyland at the controls of the White team. He completed a nine-yard pass to senior wide receiver Tevon Wright, then looked to pass again, but kept the ball and ran for 15 yards to midfield.
Two plays later, Hyland lofted a long pass that Wright caught in the west end zone. Officially, the pass covered 39 yards but it was actually nearly 49 because Wright was in the back of the end zone when he made the grab.
Early in the fourth quarter, redshirt freshman quarterback, Brady Fullmer, a graduate of Southeast High at Yoder, Wyo., also hooked up with Wright. This time the line of scrimmage was the White’s 15. Wright, one of three CSC senior receivers who have played since they were freshmen, hauled in the pass just past midfield and set sail to the east end zone for an apparent 85-yard touchdown.
However, the officials ruled Fullmer had been “sacked” before he launched the pass. Some wondered how a quarterback could throw the ball so far and on target after he’d been sacked, but spring game rules said quarterbacks had to only be touched by a defender, not wrapped up or knocked down, to call the play dead.
More big pass plays were to follow. The first saw another rookie quarterback, Riley Hill of Greybull, Wyo., connect with sophomore Chad Michaelson, who made a terrific one-handed, over-the-shoulder grab that carried inside the Red 10 for a 33-yard gain.
But the drive died there when outside linebacker Louis Smith sacked the quarterback. Moments later the biggest play of the game unfolded going the other direction. It even had a dress rehearsal.
The first time, Fullmer threw a pass that freshman Riley Schliep grabbed near midfield. He was immediately tackled by defenders Thomar Smith and Malik Goss, but the catch was nullified when Schliep was called for offensive interference.
That brought the ball back to the Red 10 with less than a minute remaining on the clock.
Since the play had worked once, why not try it again?
Fullmer’s seond pass was another dandy. Schliep, an all-stater as a senior at Grand Island Northwest as a senior 2017 when he caught 52 passes for 1,031 yards and 11 touchdowns, made another sparkling catch at about the same spot on the field. This time, no flags were thrown, Schliep managed to shake off the defenders and raced to the west end zone to complete the amazing the 90-yard play.
The game had other big plays, including the first one, when Hyland connected with Mikelson on a 40-yard catch and run. The longest run was a 41-yard jaunt by sophomore Elijah Myles, who was finally run out of bounds and landed in a pile of snow that had been removed from the field by the players and coaches on Friday so the game could be played.
Although the Eagles later showed a penchant for big time pass plays in the second half, one of the reasons there were no touchdowns in the first half was the punting by senior Will Morgan. Already the team’s placekicker, he probably also claimed the punting duties when two of his booming spirals landed out of bounds or were downed inside the one-yard line, leaving the respective offenses 99 yards from paydirt.
In between, Morgan also launched a 50-yard punt.
Additional “points” were awarded between quarters when players competed head-to-head in non-traditional roles. The forays included the long snappers participating in a punt, pass and kick contest, wide receivers becoming pass rushers, linemen catching punts and also attempting to become pass receivers and pass defenders.
The game ended in a tie when Red linemen won three of the four faceoffs in the passing drills.
A significant number of Chadron State students and other fans turned out for the game. Long said there may have been 1,000 spectators.
Special guests included about 20 high school seniors that the CSC coaching staff signed last fall and this spring to join the team. Also on hand were around 35 high school gridders who were invited to attend the college’s Junior Day program Saturday.
Most of the signees and prospects were accompanied by their parents and other family members.
Long also noted that a number of former Eagles attended the game.
The game was not the end of spring drills. Two more non-contact practices are taking place this week following a review of the Spring Game video.
The practices will be important, Long told Dave Collins, voice of the Eagles, during a post-game interview, because they’ll allow the coaches to show the players what they did both right and wrong and try to correct the mistakes.