Redshirt freshman quarterback Andrew Tovar and Black Hills State University came out strong against the Chadron State Eagles, dictating play in the first half, Saturday, in Spearfish. But the Yellow Jackets couldn’t keep control of the game as the Eagles flipped the script in the second half, scoring on each of their seven possessions to earn a 48-31 win.
The Yellow Jackets defense had no trouble containing the Eagles in the first half, and Tovar and the offense at times picked apart Chadron’s defense to the tune of a 17-0 lead after thirty minutes of play.
Chadron State Head Coach Jay Long had a simple explanation.
“Black Hills came out to play and we didn’t,” he said.
“When you looked at us in the first half, we were loaded with penalties, false starts, we had an unsportsmanlike, we had a dropped snap, our punter slipped, it was just a real messy first half," Long said.
One long-time fan Eagle fan commented at halftime that it might have been the worst he'd seen the Eagles play.
That all changed with the opening kickoff of the second half.
After a touchback, the Eagles began to move the ball out from their own 25-yard line, using seven plays to drive to the Yellow Jackets’ 30. From there, sophomore Elijah Myles broke free for an 18-yard touchdown run to get CSC on the board.
Still down 17-7, it looked as if the CSC defense’s woes weren’t over as the Yellow Jackets drove downfield and Tovar hit tight end Jarett Jenson for a 5-yard TD to extend BHSU’s lead to 24-7.
From there it was all Eagles.
“We just started executing better,” Long said. “We came out rough and I want to say that I’m really proud of our team for stepping up in the second half and finding something that worked.”
The Eagles went on to score 41 unanswered points.
CSC quarterback Dalton Holst found his form, completing 22 of 30 passes for 337 yards and four touchdowns. He threw for only 58 yards on seven completions in the first half. On Monday he was named the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference’s offensive player of the week.
The Eagles also found their running game after Myles began to see consistent carries.
“The second half felt great coming in knowing that I was going to be the starting back and getting most of the reps instead of having to rotate, making it hard to find a rhythm,” Myles said. “I came in trusting the o-line and they led the way.”
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After just 33 yards in the first half, Myles ended the game having carried the ball 19 times for 138 yards and three touchdowns.
By the final whistle, the Eagles had rushed for 176 yards and Holst had passed for 327, spreading completions across his receiving corps, but hitting returning starters Tevon Wright and Jackson Dickerson most often.
Wright and Dickerson each caught five passes. Wright led with 86 yards and two touchdowns while Dickerson had 63 yards and one TD. Senior Brandon Fullerton had three receptions for 55 yards including a TD when Holst deftly placed a ball over his shoulder and into his arms as he ran through the endzone. The catch pulled CSC to within one score of the Yellow Jackets.
Fullerton’s TD was set up by an interception by Demetrius McFadden at the Yellow Jackets’ 36-yard line.
Though BHSU controlled play in the first half, Chadron’s defense was able to keep the game from getting out of hand and kept the Eagles in a position to get back into the game in the second half. After the Yellow Jackets scored in the third to make it 24-7, the CSC defense found its game, stifling BHSU’s offense and providing timely turnovers.
Following McFadden’s pick to help get the Eagles within striking distance of the lead, the CSC defense forced the Yellow Jackets to punt on their next three possessions and their fourth ended with an interception by senior Eagle linebacker Tyler Lewis.
Fellow linebacker Travis Wilson had 16 tackles to lead the Eagles while safety Tyree Fryar was next-best with 13. Defensive tackle Alex Mai was credited with a sack for a loss of five yards and teammates Noah Kerchal and Wilson each earned half a sack.
In his first game as a starter, Tovar completed 22 of 35 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns. He was picked off three times and sacked twice. Running back Peyton Gilmore carried the ball 22 times for 87 yards and one TD. Nolan Susel had the Yellow Jackets other rushing touchdown. He carried the ball just three times for 41 yards.
Tovar went to wide-receiver Kieler Harpham nine times for a total of 147 yards and one touchdown.
BHSU defensive back Josh Gurnaby had 17 tackles for the Yellow Jackets. Fellow DB Sam Garcia had 10.
Both Chadron State and Black Hills face tough opponents this week.
The Yellow Jackets will make their first road appearance of the season against Colorado School of Mines on Saturday in Golden, Colorado. Mines was ranked second in the RMAC’s Preseason Coaches Poll and is coming off a 41-10 win over eighth-ranked Adams State University in week one.
Chadron will play its first home game of the season on Saturday night when it hosts the RMAC’s top team, Colorado State University - Pueblo. The Thunderwolves rolled over week-one opponent Dixie State 36-7 on Saturday.
Kickoff for the Eagles is scheduled for 7 p.m.