The Chadron State College football team will wrap up its season Saturday at home with a special challenge. The Eagles will host what apparently is one of the best teams in the nation--Colorado School of Mines. The finale will kick off at noon.
At 10-0 the mighty Orediggers are one of 11 undefeated teams in NCAA Division II and really have not been challenged by most of their opponents. They are ranked seventh in this week’s American Football Coaches Association poll and lead the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference in virtually every important statistical category.
The Orediggers’ closest game was this past Saturday, when they topped Dixie State 35-27 by scoring what proved to be the winning touchdown midway through the fourth quarter. The Trailblazers finished with 447 yards of total offense and Mines with 403.
For the season, Mines has tallied 428 points and the opponents 146. Aside from the Dixie State game, the Orediggers’ closest contest was their 34-14 decision over Colorado State-Pueblo on Sept. 21.
Two weeks ago, South Dakota Mines, the pesky team the Eagles edged 53-48 this past Saturday, fell to the Orediggers by 21 points--49-28--in Rapid City.
Besides leading the RMAC in both scoring offense and defense, Mines is tops in the conference in total offense (490.1 yards a game), total defense (256.6), rushing offense (260.4), rushing defense (51.8), first downs (25.8), opponents’ first downs (14.2), third down conversions (44.7 percent), opponents’ third down conversions (23.1) and time of possession (33.50 minutes).
Chadron State is second to the Orediggers in three of the offensive categories--scoring offense (38.0 points), total offense (468.5) and first downs (24.3)--but is down a ways on most of the defensive listings.
For instance, the Eagles are eighth in total defense (387.9) and rushing defense (172.2) and sixth in opponents’ first down (18.9).
“We’ve been playing better defense, but we know we’ll have to play better than ever on Saturday if we’re going to shut them down,” said CSC Defensive Coordinator Craig Jersild. “They’ve got both a great running game and a great passing game. We’re going to have our hands full, that’s for sure.”
The Orediggers generally prefer to run the ball.
For the first half of the season, they leaned on Cameron Mayberry, a burly senior who in 2018 led the RMAC in rushing with 1,584 yards (a 6.5 yard average) and 22 touchdowns. He was going strong again the first half of the season, gobbling up 654 yards through six games for a 5.7 average and eight TDs.
But Mayberry was eventually injured. Now, his replacement, Michael Zeman, a 5-11, 210 pound sophomore from Wheat Ridge, Colo., is doing even better than his predecessor.
Zeman has rushed 132 times for 1,064 yards, an 8.1-yard average, and 10 TDs. He’s had at least two spectacular games. He rushed for 298 yards during the 49-27 win over Azusa Pacific on Oct. 26 and then set the Mines single-game record by rumbling for 321 yards the next week at South Dakota Mines.
Last Saturday, Zeman carried 22 times for 183 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown jaunt, against Dixie State.
A year ago, when the Orediggers were 10-1, losing only to Dixie State during the regular season, they brought in a senior transfer, Isaac Harker from Indiana State, to play quarterback. He responded by completing 67.8 percent of his passes for 3,573 yards and 38 touchdowns in those 11 games.
This year’s quarterback is a true freshman, John Matocha, a 5-11, 180-pound Magnolia, Texas, native. His passing totals don’t match Harter’s, but he’s completed 195 of 264 attempts for an amazing 73.4 percent and 2,109 yards and 23 TDs.
He also can run with the ball. He’s carried 107 times for 535 yards and scored 10 times.
CSC Offensive Coordinator Logan Masters said it’s not just the backs who make the Mines offense potent. From what he’s seen on film, he said the line is also outstanding, led by Grant Stewart, a 6-2, 305-pound senior and a first-team all-conference choice last fall.
While the Eagles lead Mines 23-18 in the all-time series, the Orediggers have won the last six games in the rivalry. Last year’s score was 49-20 in Golden.