For the second straight week, the Chadron State College football team saw a close game slip away in the fleeting seconds as the Colorado Mesa Mavericks sealed their 42-30 victory with an interception return for a touchdown.
Mesa is now 2-2 overall and 2-1 in the RMAC. The Eagles are 1-3 in both categories.
Turnovers bit the Eagles again. After Fort Lewis converted three fumbles into touchdowns during its 37-30 win in Durango the previous Saturday, the Mavericks picked off Chadron State passes for their final two touchdowns to put a blotch on the Eagles’ Homecoming.
A year ago in Grand Junction, CSC safety Tyree Fryar intercepted Mesa’s pass in the end zone with 28 seconds remaining to clinch the Eagles’ 38-34 victory.
The teams were well-matched again. The Eagles finished with 470 total net yards, one more than Mesa, and the time of possession was nearly as close. The hosts had five takeaways, two more than the Mavericks’ managed, counting a perfectly executed on-side kick that the Eagles claimed with 1:38 to play, but could not convert into gold.
The game got off to a fast start and was hard-fought all the way.
On the third play of the game, Mesa quarterback Aaron Howard hooked up with all-star receiver Peter Anderson on a 74-yard scoring strike.
Bolstered by a 21-yard pass from quarterback Dalton Holst to inside receiver Cole Thurness and a personal foul penalty against the visitors, the Eagles’ got on the scoreboard when freshman Colton Dolder kicked a 29-yard field goal midway in the opening quarter.
Sparked by a 30-yard pass from Howard to Anderson, the Mavericks soon reached the CSC one, but Howard fumbled when he was hit by CSC linebacker Travis Wilson and cornerback Demetrius McFadden recovered the ball.
Howard apparently was injured on the play and was replaced by Hayden Bollinger.
After the turnover, the Eagles drove 94 yards in 15 plays with tailback Elijah Myles gaining 16 and 13 yards on the final two plays for a touchdown. The extra point attempt failed, but CSC led 9-7.
The Mavericks went back on top when Lucas Ruiz-Diaz booted a 44-yard field goal with 4:32 left in second quarter. CSC tailback Stevann Brown ripped off a 38-yard run on the first play after the kickoff, but CSC was soon forced to punt. With the aid of the brisk southeast wind, Mesa bobbled the ball that the Eagles’ Noah Kerchal recovered at the visitors’ 22.
Myles’ 19-yard jaunt set the stage for his two-yard touchdown run that put CSC on top 16-10.
The teams combined for 16 plays in the final 1:40 of the half before Ruiz-Diaz booted a wind-aided 51-yard field goal as time ran out.
The rivals each tallied seven points in the third period.
The Eagles scored first, going 64 yards in four plays after redshirt freshman Cole Condon intercepted Mesa’s pass. Myles’ runs of seven and 23 yards ignited the drive. They were followed by a 15-yard pass interference penalty against the Mavs’ and Browns’ 19-yard burst into the end zone for a 23-13 lead.
Mesa followed with a 12-play, 75-yard drive. The only completed pass was a 20-yarder from Bollinger to Anderson. Bollinger took an option the final three yards.
The Eagles soon appeared to be the march again. Holst completed a 17-yard pass to Brandon Fullerton as the third period was closing and then connected early in the fourth frame with Tevon Wright for 18 yards and Thurness for 19 before the drive died at the visitors’ 18.
Mesa then drove 82 yards in 12 plays to regain the lead 27-23. Bollinger’s 18-yard pass to Anderson and was followed by a 23-yard toss to 6-foot-6 tight end Dagan Reinks, who dove into the end zone with 7:56 to play.
The Mavericks’ lead grew by eight points just 40 seconds later. On the second play after the ensuing kickoff, safety Nick Ciccio cut in front of the intended Chadron State receiver to swipe a pass along the north sideline and took it 29 yards to paydirt. The Eagles blocked the extra point attempt, but Rienks claimed the loose ball behind the line of scrimmage for a two-point conversion that made it 35-23.
Despite the outburst, lots of suspense remained.
Holst and Thurness hooked up for a 26-yard completion to midfield, but CSC could not convert on a fourth and four moments later. Mesa opened its ensuing possession with an 18-yard run by Trey Windham. However, three plays later CSC linebacker Tyler Lewis forced Windham to fumble and McFadden claimed it for his second of the game.
After looking to pass, Holst tucked the ball and ran three times for 34 yards to punch the ball to the Mavericks’ 17 with 1:49 to play. A false start penalty was assessed on the Eagles, but the CSC quarterback hooked up with Fullerton and Thurness for 10 and 12 yards, respectively, for the touchdown that cut the deficit to 35-30.
Everyone knew what was coming next.
The Eagles regained possession during Will Morgan’s bounding on-side kick when Wright out-grabbed a host of Mavericks. CSC completed a short pass, but had to turn the ball over with 59 seconds still showing.
Chadron State had preserved its timeouts and the defense soon forced the Colorado visitors to punt from midfield. The Eagles took possession at their own 10, but Mesa cornerback Justin White disguised his coverage, picked off Holst’s pass and took a circuitous 33-yard route to the end zone to seal the verdict with 21 seconds remaining.
Holst completed 24 of 53 passes for 253 yards. Thurness caught nine for 98 yards and Fullerton six for 82 to pace the receivers. Myles carried 18 times for 114 yards and Brown 14 for 89, giving them a combined 6.3-yard average.
Bollinger completed nine of 22 passes for 151 yards and Howard three of eight for 118 before leaving the game. Anderson’s 74-yard scoring romp to open the clash helped him pile up 168 yards on six receptions. The Mavericks rushed for 200 yards, led by Jesse Rodriguez with 20 carries for 89 yards.
Besides forcing a fumble apiece, Wilson and Lewis, the Eagles’ dynamic linebackers, combined for 27 tackles, 21 of them unassisted.
CSC Head Coach Jay Long complimented his team for four quarters of outstanding effort.
“We never like losing, but it hurts a little bit less when your guys play hard,” he stated.
First Downs 22 28
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Total Net Yards 469 470
Rushes, Yards 49-200 41-217
Passing Yards 269 252
Passing 12-30-1 24-53-3
Return Yards 87 50
Punts, Average 50-35.4 5-25.4
Fumbles, Lost 3-3 3-0
Penalties, Yards 9-81 5-25
Colorado Mesa 7 6 7 22 ---42
Chadron State 3 13 7 7 ----30
CMU--Peter Anderson 74 pass from Aaron Howard (Lucas Ruiz-Diaz kick)
CSC--Colton Dolder 29 field goal
CSC--Elijah Myles 13 run (kick blocked)
CMU--Ruiz-Diaz 44 field goal
CSC--Myles 2 run (Dolder kick)
CMU--Ruiz-Diaz 51 field goal.
CSC--Stevann Brown 19 run (Dolder kick)
CMU--Hayden Bollinger 3 run (Ruiz-Diaz kick)
CMU---Dagan Rienks 23 pass from Bollinger (Ruiz-Diaz kick)
CMU--Nick Ciccio 34 interception return (Dagan Rienks rush)
CSC--Cole Thurness 12 pass from Dalton Holst (Dolder kick)
CMU--Justin White 33 interception return (Ruiz-Diaz kick)
Rushing: CMU--Jesse Rodriguez 20-89, Isaac Maestas 12-52, Trey Windham 4-25, Hayden Bollinger 7-21, Aaron Howard 6-12. CSC--Elijah Myles 18-114, Stevann Brown 14-89, Dalton Holst 8-12, Justin Cauley 1-2.
Passing: CMU--Hayden Bollinger 9-22-1, 151 yards, 1 TD; Aaron Howard 3-8-1, 118 yards, 1 TD. CSC--Dalton Holst 24-53-3, 253 yards, 1 TD.
Receiving: CMU--Peter Anderson 6-168, Shaun Apiki 2-39, Bradley Toussaint 2-21, Dagan Rienks 1-23, KJ Sapp 1-18. CSC--Cole Thurness 9-98, Brandon Fullerton 6-82 Tevon Wright 4-37, Matt Vargas 4-37, Ethan Fray 1-14, Stevann Brown 1-10, Elijah Myles 1-minus 3.
Kickoff Returns: CMU--Isaac Salazar 1-18. CSC--Steveann Brown 3-50. Punt Returns: CMU--KJ Sapp 1-2. CSC--none. Interception Returns: CMU--Nick Siccio 2-34, Justin White 1-33. CSC--Cole Condon 1-0.
Tackles: CMU--Greyson Matalus 6-3, 9; Justin 6-0, 6; Nick Coccio 6-0, 6; Reed Rowan 6-0, 6. CSC--Travis Wilson 11-3, 14; Tyler Lewis 10-3, 13; Tayven Bray 5-4, 9; Noah Kerchal 5-3, 8; Brendan Brehmer 4-1, 5; Cole Condon 4-1, 5.