Black Hills State dominated the first half at home Saturday night, building a 17-0 intermission advantage in the season-and conference opener for both teams.
But it was a tale of two halves. After their slow start, Chadron State Eagles hit full stride in the second half, scoring on all seven of their possessions and won the RMAC clash 48-31.
“We were sloppy in the first half,” Coach Jay Long said. “We didn’t execute on offense, dropped a snap to the quarterback and the punter slipped while he was trying to kick. Things like that gave the momentum to Black Hills. In the second half we were a different team. I was proud of the way our guys handled adversity. We found our rhythm and played really well.”
Quarterback Dalton Holst was among the Eagles who made up for lost time in the second half. He completed just seven of 12 passes for 58 yards in the opening half, but finished the game 22 of 30 for 337 yards and four touchdowns and threw no interceptions.
The Eagles, who had just 38 yards rushing at intermission, also got their running game in gear in the second half, led by sophomore Elijah Myles, who finished with 19 carries for 138 yards and three touchdowns.
CSC finished with 503 total net yards and Black Hills with 442, but only 146 in the second half.
Myles’ first TD came on the opening possession of the second half, when he went 18 yards up the middle to cap a 75-yard drive in eight plays. Holst’s passes of 20 and 12 yards to Cole Thurness ignited the drive.
Black Hills responded in a hurry, going 80 yards in nine plays and scoring on a five-yard pass to regain their 17-point lead. But from then on the Yellow Jackets never threatened until finally scoring again with 18 seconds to play.
Meanwhile, the Eagles moved the ball relentlessly the remainder of the game.
Tevon Wright paced the Chadron State receivers with five catches for 86 yards. He caught a nine-yard scoring toss midway in the third quarter after his brother, Jahani, had gained 42 yards on a pass play along the sidelines. Tevon also got wide open early in the fourth frame for a 35-yard touchdown play.
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Between Wright’s two TD receptions, Brandon Fullerton hauled in a 28-yard TD pass from Holst shortly after cornerback Demetrius McFadden had intercepted a Black Hills pass at the Yellow Jackets’ 36-yard line.
Long said McFadden’s pick was “a momentum changer” that kept the Eagles rolling to victory.
Myles scored his second and third touchdowns just two minutes apart midway in the fourth quarter. The first came on a one-yard dive to cap a 58-yard drive that included Myles’ 11-yard run and an 18-yard Holst-to-Wright pass.
Myles’ final TD was a 19-yard jaunt that was set up by Jackson Dickerson’s 24-yard punt return.
Dickerson, who finished with five receptions for 63 yards, tallied the last CSC touchdown on a 28-yard pass play with three minutes remaining. It was preceded by linebacker Tyler Lewis’s interception that he returned 13 yards to the Black Hills’ 34.
The Yellow Jackets’ had their moments, but the Chadron State defense made sure most of them were in the first half. The hosts opened with a 36-yard field goal on their first possession and then scored a touchdown in a one-yard plunge by tailback Payten Gilmore on the first play of the second quarter.
Black Hills built the lead to 17-0 on a 19-yard pass from transfer quarterback Andrew Tovar to wide receiver Kielar Harpham with 3:30 left in the second quarter. Tovar finished 22 of 35 for 264 yards through the air, but was picked off three times by the Eagles.
Harpham caught nine passes for 147 yards and Gilmore led the hosts on the ground with 22 carries for 87 yards, 55 of them in the first half.
Linebacker Travis Wilson was the Eagles’ busiest tackler with 16. Safety Tyree Fryar added 13.