Chadron State’s “comeback kids,” the team that has rallied time and time again this fall when things looked pretty iffy, will have a chance to tie for the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference championship on Saturday when it visits Colorado Mines in Golden. Kickoff will be at noon.
ESPN 3 is going to televise it.
While the Eagles were using every ounce of their energy to grind out a 50-46 victory over South Dakota Mines on Saturday, one of the teams the Eagles had come from behind to defeat this fall, Dixie State, knocked off the previously undefeated Orediggers 52-45 on a last ditch pass.
Dixie quarterback Michael Sanders, this week’s RMAC Offensive Player of the Week, hit Xavier Smith with an 18-yard pass with five seconds remaining to break the 45-45 deadlock. Sanders, threw for 553 yards and five touchdowns against the Orediggers.
Sanders also had a good day against the Eagles, throwing for 527 yards, but for just one touchdown. When the chips were down--fourth and goal at the three--the Dixie coaches decided to run the ball.
Chadron State head coach Jay Long said Saturday's game in Golden “is our playoff game.”
A CSC victory coupled with a loss by Colorado State-Pueblo when it plays Western State at Gunnison, would give the Eagles, the Orediggers and ThunderWolves identical 8-2 conference records.
The national selection committee would have to decide which, if any, of three teams would advance to the playoffs. Region 4 is rugged. Besides the RMAC, teams from the Lone Star and Sunbelt Conference are in the mix. Minnesota State (Mankato), Minnesota-Duluth and Tarleton State of Texas are all undefeated entering their final games this weekend.
Colorado Mines was upset by Dixie State, but it is still a juggernaut. The Orediggers are averaging 559.7 yards and 50 points a game, both tops in the conference.
Their quarterback, Isaac Harker, a 6-foot, 195 pound senior who transferred to Mines after playing less as a junior than he had as a sophomore at Division ! Indiana State, has completed 234 of 356 passes (67.6 percent) for 3,201 yards and 37 TDs this fall. He leads the RMAC in passing efficiency.
Their running back, Cameron Mayberry, 5-11, 215, has rushed 220 times for 1,377 yards and 19 touchdowns to also pace the conference in both categories.
Three Mines receivers rank among the top seven in receptions and yards receiving. Brody Oliver has caught 61 passes for 1,067 yards and 19 touchdowns, Riley Hoff also has 61 catches for 775 yards and 7 TDs and Sean O’Dell has 55 receptions for 757 yards and 4 TDs.
“The Mines offense is very good,” said CSC defensive coordinator Jeff Larson. “Their quarterback, the running back, the O line and the wide receivers are all outstanding. They are as solid a group as we have seen in a while and they don’t do things that put them in a bad position. We will have to keep fighting and playing with grit.”
The Orediggers’ defense has given up 371.1 yards and 24.4 points a game to rank second to Pueblo in both categories in the RMAC. Chadron State’s corresponding numbers are 488.6 and 31.8 points, but the Eagles’ forte of fighting for their lives when the chips are down could be plus in the season finale.
Prior to Saturday’s setback, the Orediggers’ closest games were their 35-21 and 42-27 triumphs over Pueblo and Azusa Pacific, respectively.
They’ve won their other seven games by an average of 47.3 to 20.6 points.