The Chadron State College football team will make its longest trip of the season later this week while gearing up to play the Dixie State Trailblazers in St. George, Utah, on Saturday. Kickoff for the Homecoming contest is set for 1 p.m.
This will be the fourth time and apparently the last time the Eagles and the Trailblazers will meet on the gridiron. Dixie State joined the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference in 2016, then announced a year ago it was withdrawing to transition to NCAA Division I and Football Championship Series (FCS) status and will no longer meet RMAC opponents.
Chadron State’s other sports teams also are not slated to tangle with the Trailblazers following the end of the 1999-2000 school year. Dixie State is joining the Western Athletic Conference that includes schools such as Cal Baptist, Cal State-Bakersfield, Chicago State, New Mexico State, Missouri-Kansas City and Texas-Rio Grande Valley.
Most of those schools do not have football teams, leading Dixie State to play Big Sky Conference members Southern Utah, Weber State and Northern Arizona. The Blazers also have signed to play Montana State in September 2020 and Brigham Young beginning in 2022 and Colorado State in 2023.
While the Eagles have won three straight games and are now 4-3 for the season and 3-3 in the RMAC, the Trailblazers are 6-1 overall and 5-1 in the RMAC.
Colorado State-Pueblo put the lone blotch on this year’s Dixie State win-loss record by a 36-7 score in the season-opener. Since then, the Trailblazers have trailed three times at halftime, but always rallied to win. Their victories, in order, were 23-14 over Fort Lewis, 55-0 over New Mexico Highlands, 28-16 over South Dakota Mines, 55-22 over Black Hills State, 55-21 over Simon Fraser in a non-conference contest and 28-20 over Western Colorado last Saturday.
Western Colorado led 14-7 at halftime in Gunnison on Saturday, but the Trailblazers exploded for 225 yards of total offense and three touchdowns in the third quarter to gain the momentum.
Through seven games, both the Eagles and Dixie rank at or near the top of the RMAC in several statistical categories. CSC (470.9 yards per game) is first and Dixie State (434.6) is third in total offense. The Eagles are second (35.1) and Dixie (34.3) third in scoring offense.
Through the air, Chadron State (298) is second and the Blazers (289.4) are third in pass offense.
Dixie is second in scoring defense, giving up just 15.6 points a game, while the Eagles are eighth, yielding 32.7 points.
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The Trailblazers also are second in kickoff returns (28.8 yards), interceptions (9) and field goals (8-9) and are first in quarterback sacks with 30, twice Chadron State’s total.
Dixie State won the first two games in the series with the Eagles, but Chadron State made up for lost time a year ago when the teams played at Elliott Field and CSC had some spectacular things happen down the stretch.
The Trailblazers won the first game, also played in Chadron, in 2016, 44-27, even though the Eagles scored three touchdown in the fourth quarter.
In 2017 in St. George, the Trailblazers out-yarded Chadron State 516 to 288, but with the aid of touchdowns CSC scored off a blocked punt that was recovered in the end zone and the return of a Dixie State fumble the Eagles tied the score at 24-24 early in the fourth period. However, the Blazers drove 70 and 87 yards for touchdowns to notch the 38-24 verdict.
Then came last year’s barnburner. The game featured 1,104 yards of offense and Dixie out-downed the Eagles 36-14, but fantastic finishes by both the CSC offense and defense allowed the Eagles to pull out a dynamic 30-18 triumph.
Dixie State racked up 36 first downs and 631 yards, but the Eagles’ defense came up big when it counted most, stopping the Trailblazers inside the five-yard line near the end both the first and second halves en route to the RMAC shootout.
Already relieved that Dixie State had not scored following the second goal-line stand and the Eagles still led 23-18, the large Friends and Family Day crowd got a special a thrill just seconds before heading home.
After gaining zilch on two carries while primarily trying to run out the clock, CSC senior tailback Kevin Coy somehow burst through a mass of humanity in the middle of the line, broke free and galloped 97 yards to the opposite end of the field for the longest play from scrimmage in Eagles’ history. There were just 16 seconds remaining when he scored.
“I guess all that hard work has paid off,” Coy stated. When asked how he managed to break free, he said, “I think I broke a tackle. Maybe everybody got a block. I don’t know, but it sure was fun.”
The game was filled with big plays and long drives (all seven touchdown drives were at least 62 yards long), but in the end it was defensive stops that spelled the difference, Chadron State Coach Jay Long said.
“The defense made some big plays when it was absolutely necessary,” Long stated. “They (Dixie) were just four of 14 on third down conversions and one of five on fourth down. They also were only three of eight in the red zone. I’m proud of how our guys fought, grappled and scrapped.”