Hunting season appears to have gone well for the Chadron State College football coaching staff.
Nearly 50 high school seniors signed letters of intent during the past week to continue their gridiron careers while attending Chadron State beginning this fall.
A majority of them will receive scholarships, the list includes 16 highly-regarded walk-ons. Head Coach Jay Long said the class looks good on paper and praised his assistants for making contact with so many players from both the region and, in some instances, far away.
Long said heavy emphasis was on recruiting defensive backs and receivers because the Eagles will have several seniors playing those positions this fall, but he noted outstanding players also were signed at other positions.
Three Chadron High seniors are among the dozen Nebraskans who will join the Eagles. They are Dan Dunbar, Jake Lemmon and Clark Riesen. Each earned first-team All-Western Conference and honorable mention all-state last fall.
Dunbar and Riesen are planning to play linebacker and Lemmon is expected to be a receiver for the Eagles.
Dunbar participated in 54 tackles, recovered four fumbles and also caught 20 passes for 175 yards last fall.
Riesen led the Cardinals in tackles with 90, half of them solos, carried the ball 80 times for 518 yards, an average of 6.5 yards, and scored eight touchdowns. He also recovered three fumbles.
Lemmon led the Cards in both rushing with 199 carries for 910 yards and receiving with 36 receptions for 416 yards. In addition, he returned 22 kickoffs for 462 yards and scored 16 touchdowns along with eight two-point conversions for a total of 112 points. Lemmon accumulated 1,326 all-purpose yards last fall.
Riesen and Lemmon have been highly successful wrestlers for the Cardinals and Dunbar is a top alternate for the basketball team.
Other Chadron State recruits from the Panhandle include Baily Hood of Alliance, Cade Payne of Hemingford, Ephroen Lovato of Minatare, Zane Musgrave of Hyannis, Jarrett Pieper of Hay Springs and Keegan Reifschneider of Scottsbluff.
Hood was the No. 2 tackler at Alliance last fall with 49 solos and 26 assists. He was first-team all-conference and honorable mention all-state. Both of his parents are CSC grads and his father, Rob, came from Ralston, played in the defensive line for the Eagles in the early 1990s and is now a Sandhills rancher.
Payne is listed at 260 pounds, but won the 220-pound championship at the Class C-4 District Wrestling Tournament last weekend. He had 25 solo tackles and 31 assists last fall and was honorable mention all-state. His brother, Denton, saw considerable action in the defensive front for the Eagles last fall as a redshirt freshman.
Both Lovato and Musgrave were first-team 6-man all-staters last fall. Lovato rushed for 1,810 yards and scored 41 touchdowns for Minatare’s 9-2 team and Musgrave was credited with 143 tackles and claimed six fumbles for the 8-2 Longhorns.
Pieper was a stellar member of the 11-1, state playoff runner-up Hay Springs Hawks, which over the years has provided the Eagles with an array of excellent players.
Reifschneider is a high profile recruit. He starred on both offense and defense for Scottsbluff’s 12-1 team that reached the Class B state championship game last November. He earned first-team all-state at defensive back after returning five interceptions for 170 yards and two touchdowns, and also was the Bearcats’ leading receiver with 28 catches for 625 yards and 11 TDs.
As a junior, Reifschneider made 10 interceptions to share the state lead. Scottsbluff didn’t throw the ball much in 2017, but he caught 11 passes for 402 yards, an average of 36.5 yards, and 4 TDs.
Another Nebraskan, Morgan Fawyer of McCook, had similar results. The Bison aren’t known for their passing game, but last fall Fawyer caught 30 tosses for 775 yards and 10 TDs. He also swiped three passes and last spring was the silver medalist in the Class B long jump at the state meet, going 22-2 ¾.
Carter Terry is another highly regarded Nebraska recruit. He started at quarterback three years at Grand Island Northwest, where his coach was former Chadron High and Chadron State signal caller Kevin Stein.
Last fall, Terry was tabbed first-team Class B all-state by the Lincoln Journal Star after he completed 180 of 293 passes for 2,352 yards and 23 touchdowns. The year before, when Riley Schliep, now a freshman at CSC, was his primary target (52 catches for 1,031 yards and 11 TDs), Terry led Class B in passing by going 174 of 289 for 2,744 yards and 33 TDs.
Chris Stein, Kevin’s older brother and the Chadron State offensive coordinator, said the Eagles also landed two more impressive quarterbacks.
They include Deon Jones of Norland High in Miami, Fla., who threw for 3,496 yards and 42 touchdowns and also ran for 559 yards and nine TDs during his career,
The third QB prospect is Trevon Wehrman of Platte Valley High at Kersey, Colo. He was a first-team Class 2A all-stater last fall, when he passed for 1,615 yards and ran for 1,085.
“I like all three of them,” Chris Stein said. “They can really spin (throw) it and also run well. With Dalton Holst (Eagles’ two-year starter who will be a junior this fall.) still here for two more years we’ll have time to develop them.”
Stein added that the Eagles still expect to sign a premier running back.
While the number of recruits from South Dakota and Wyoming are not as numerous as some years, the CSC coaches have landed promising players from those states.
One of the first players to commit was Morgan Harkless of Hot Springs, an all-stater who threw for 965 yards and 13 touchdowns, ran for 459 yards and 11 TDs, but is expected to be a defensive back in college. He returned a pair of interceptions for touchdowns last fall. His coach, Ben Kramer, was quoted as saying, “If he was on the field, we had a chance.”
Also joining the Eagles from Hot Springs is Andy Wendland, who as a junior caught 70 passes for 1,067 yards and 18 touchdowns while playing for the Crawford Rams. He moved to running back for the Bison last fall, rushed for nearly 1,000 yards and scored at least 12 TDs.
A third Hot Springs player joining the Eagles is Brand Baker, who was in on 77 tackles last season.
The Wyoming recruits include Trevon Smith of Natrona County High in Casper who was a Casper Star-Tribune Super 25 choice and earned first-team Class 4A all-state at both offensive and defensive tackle.
Clayton Iacovetto of Wheatland was tabbed the Class 2A Lineman of the Year and Clancy Gines of Farson-Eden High was the Cowboy State’s 6-Man Defensive Player of the Year. Gines is a 6-3, 210-pound linebacker.
CSC coaches also picked off two impressive small-school recruits from northeastern Colorado.
Layne Green, a 6-2, 230-pound specimen from Julesburg, was the 8-Man Player-of-the Year. While he’s slated to be a lineman in college, he scored 29 touchdowns last fall.
There’s also Bryson Long of Peetz, the Colorado 6-Man Player of the Year. He has excellent speed, ran for more than 2,000 yards while averaging 10.7 yards a carry, led the entire state with 54 touchdowns and 324 points and also was the Colorado pacesetter in tackles with 127 solos and 37 assists
Also among the 15 Colorado recruits are two all-staters from Loveland High School. Isaiah Meyers was a Class 4A first-team choice at defensive back and Collin Morrison was a second-team selection at defensive end.
Isaac Harris of Sterling was a first-team 2A pick after catching 42 passes for 902 yards and 11 TDs.
While landing defensive backs and receivers was a priority, the Eagles also was the choice of several extra-large linemen. They include Kameron Mellon of Casper Kelly Walsh, who is 6-5, 290; Jackson Hoops, 6-5, 295, from Valor Christian in the Denver area; and Dillon Woods, 6-2, 280, from St. Thomas More in Rapid City.
“We’ll know a lot more about all these young men a year from now,” Long noted. “But at this point I couldn’t be happier with their prospects. We had about 70 high school seniors come to the college to look us over last fall and since the season ended.
”I thank the professors for taking the time to talk to them, the admissions staff for being so flexible with the scheduling and enthusiastic while showing the prospects around the campus, the food service for helping make a good impression and the community for saying good things about us. We know quite a few parents go downtown, look around and ask questions. We appreciate everyone’s help.”