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Eagles beat the Hardrockers 37-22 for second time this season
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Eagles beat the Hardrockers 37-22 for second time this season

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On several occasions Sturgis native Jay Long played the South Dakota School of Mines twice each year when he was head coach at Black Hills State University.

Getting two wins over the Hardrockers wasn't always easy back then, and it isn't easy now. But Long, now the head coach at Chadron State College, has a pair of wins over Mines this season as the Eagles gained a 37-22 victory Saturday night at O'Harra Stadium.

Back in the day when Long coached the Jackets, the two schools played twice a year on and off until the 2011 season. Because of the fall season that is 2020, Chadron State, Mines and Black Hills State are playing each other twice just to get some football in.

"As a coach at Black Hills State for nine years, I think we played South Dakota School of Mines twice five or six of those years. To win them both in one year was really tough," he said. "Anytime you play somebody twice, it is going to be hard. I talked to our guys (Friday night) and said that we had to go out and play just like we did the first time, just go out and execute and do our jobs. I thought our guys found a way to execute and do our jobs."

The two teams have had a bit of shoot-out history in the last couple of years, with the Eagles winning 53-48 in 2019, 50-46 in 2018 and 41-25 two weeks ago.

Saturday night, Chadron State took just a 9-3 lead into the locker room at halftime. The lone touchdown came on a 3-yard run by Chris Busby. The two teams also traded field goals — 28 yards by Enis Sefa of Mines to open the second quarter, and 36 yards by Drake Holdren as time expired after the Eagles got a late interception by Travis Wilson.

"The first half was a defensive battle," said Chadron State senior wide receiver Cole Thurness, a St. Thomas More graduate. "I was kind of disappointed with our offense not coming out and holding blocks and getting push on drives. We couldn't sustain anything, that is why we didn't do much in the first half.

"But I'm glad our offense came through in the second half and caught some fire. We were able to fight and get more points."

The Hardrockers appeared to have some momentum coming out of the locker room at halftime, driving down the field for their first touchdown, a 14-yard TD pass from sophomore quarterback Spencer Zur to a wide open freshman receiver Isaiah Eastman.

Each team had a blocked extra point and the game was tied at 9-9 early in the third.

"We came out and scored on the opening drive of the second half, which was a momentum changer for us," Mines head coach Charlie Flohr said. "But we had a hard time keeping up with them. They made some big plays over the top that kind of took the wind out of our sails, and then we didn't score. We have to continue to go out and make plays, continue to execute."

The Eagles responded each time Mines tried to make a run and maintained a 14- to 21-point lead the rest of the way.

After a long kickoff return to midfield, the Eagles struck quickly on a 37-yard touchdown pass from senior Dalton Holst to redshirt freshman Jahani Wright, as Wright won the jump-ball against Mines defensive back Dominic Jackson.

Another short punt against the gusty winds gave the Eagles the ball on their own 46, and nine plays later Jalen Starks powered in from 1-yard out. Starks had five straight runs on the drive.

Two plays into the fourth quarter, the Hardrockers came back with a 2-yard TD run by junior running back Ahmad Lewis, capping a 13-play drive that saw Mines convert two 4th downs — one on an offsides penalty by CSC and the other on a 10-yard run by Zur on 4th and 2.

But once again, Chadron State had an answer, as the 245-pound Starks plowed in again from 5 yards out for a 30-16 CSC lead with 9:30 to play.

Busby scored his second touchdown on a 3-yard run to make it a 21-point game with 6:30 to play, and Zur connected with Eastman again, this time from 19 yards out, to close the scoring.

"Early in the first half, our offense was struggling," Long said. "We were able to lean on our defense, our defense kept us in the game. In the second half Mines got some drives on us, and then it was time for our offense to step it up. It was a team effort."

Holst finished 12-of-24 passing for 162 yards. Jeydon Cox led the Eagles with 81 yards rushing, with Starks adding 60.

Chadron State had 322 total yards of offense, compared to 599 the first time the two teams met.

Flohr said they sustained a few injuries on the defensive side and that wore them out in the second half.

"They made some plays when they needed to. Credit to Chadron State for making those plays," Flohr said. "But I'm proud of our kids, they fought for the full game. We tried to come back and make it a game toward the end."

Zur was 19-of-36 passing for 174 yards, two TDs and two interceptions. He also led the Hardrockers with 90 yards of net rushing on 15 carries, highlighted by a 43-yard run in the fourth quarter on 4th down. Lewis ran the ball 19 times for 50 yards.

On the defensive side, junior linebacker Jeremiah Makahununiu led the Eagles with nine tackles, while junior linebacker Noah Kerchal added eight stops, including five solo tackles.

Junior linebacker Will Carroll paced the Hardrockers with nine tackles and one interception. Junior linebacker Cole Peterson added seen tackles and senior defensive lineman Bryan Akunna finished with six tackles

"Charlie Flohr, and his defensive coordinator Vance Winter, I've known them for a long time, and they have done a really good job with the team. They play hard and they play to the whistle," Long said. "I'm really proud of our guys for finding a way to win."

The loss dropped the Hardrockers to 2-2 as Mines has alternated between wins and losses this season.

It is the nature of the year, Flohr said.

 "In my opinion, we're growing as a program," he said as they now prepare for next week's rematch at Black Hills State. "There are a lot of things that people aren't seeing, that we continue to grow. I'm proud of how our kids have continued to respond with everything that is thrown at them."

Thurness, who had a big game at Chadron but had just three catches for 28 yards Saturday, said it is always exciting when you can play football.

"I'm glad we were able to put a schedule in this year and not just have to play against each other, like practicing for six weeks, because it gets kind of heated when guys go against each other every day," he said.

Chadron State, 2-1, is at Nebraska-Kearney Saturday.

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