When the South Dakota School of Mines meets Chadron State College in a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference football game, expect a lot of yards and a lot of points.
Even in this shortened COVID-induced season, that was the case again as the Eagles outlasted the Hardrockers 41-25 Saturday night at Elliott Stadium in Chadron, Neb.
The two teams combined for over 1,000 yards of offense, with the Eagles rolling up 599 yards and the Hardrockers 448.
Chadron State, bouncing back from a tough 10-7 loss to Colorado Mesa in overtime last week in its season opener, had plenty of offense this time around, jumping out to a 21-3 halftime lead and maintaining a two-touchdown advantage for much of the second half.
The Eagles were led by the hard running of 6-foot, 245-pound running back Jalen Starks, a transfer from UCLA, senior quarterback Dalton Holst and senior receiver and St. Thomas More graduate Cole Thurness.
Starks, in the starting lineup after Elija Miles elected to not participate this fall because of COVID concerns, gained 116 yards on 17 carries, scoring three touchdowns.
Holst was 19-of-27 passing for 361 yards and two scores, while Thurness caught eight passes for 175 yards and one TD. Thurness also ran for one score.
“We played really well at the line of scrimmage and got the ball to our playmakers,” Chadron State coach Jay Long said. “We had great practices this week and it showed. I couldn’t be much happier.”
The Eagles made up for last week when they didn't score until 25 seconds remaining in the game, as Thurness ran it in from 4 yards out, capping a 13-play, 78-yard drive, scoring at the 9:11 mark of the opening quarter.
The Eagles’ next two touchdowns came on long drives after the Chadron State defense picked off two Mines passes.
Cornerback Bobby Peele made a diving interception at the Eagles’ 25 midway in the second period. The Eagles scored in six plays with Holst’s 43-yard pass to Thurness the big gainer. Starks went the final yard on the next play.
After Mines’ Isaiah Eastman returned the ensuing kickoff 33 yards, the Hardrockers drove to the Chadron 24 before CSC safety Cole Condon stepped in front of the intended receiver in the back of the end zone for the second pick.
This time, the Eagles went 80 yards in seven plays with Holst and Thurness connecting on a 48 yard strike to ignite the drive. The hosts were facing a fourth and 12 when the Holst hit a wide open Chad Mikelson, who was going full stride while catching a 32-yard scoring pass just 50 seconds before halftime to make it 21-0.
The Hardrockers, 1-1, got on the board as time ran out in the first half on a 43-yard field goal by Enis Sefa.
After a tough first half in which he was picked off twice, redshirt freshman quarterback Jayden Johannsen bounced back in the second half and led the Hardrockers to their first touchdown, scoring on a 20-yard touchdown run with 2:47 remaining in the third quarter.
The Eagles, however, had the answer to the Mines score — twice — and built it's largest lead of the game at 35-10 midway through the fourth quarter,
Just four seconds in the fourth, Holst found an open Thurness for an 18-yard touchdown pass and later in the quarter Starks scored his second touchdown of the game on a 4-yard run.
Johannsen and the Hardrockers quickly came back and scored just 11 seconds later when Johannsen found Collin Zur for a 65-yard touchdown reception, and Johannsen snuck it in for the 2-point conversion to cut the lead to 35-18.
The Eagles iced the game with three minutes remaining on a 9-yard TD run by Starks.
Mines closed the scoring with 37 seconds remaining on a 5-yard touchdown run by junior running back Ahmad Lewis.
For the Hardrockers, Johannsen was 17-of-30 passing for 246 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Zur caught eight passes for 139 yards and the one score, while Isaiah Eastman (63 yards) and Joe Luebbers (26 catches) both had three catches.
Lewis finished with 90 yards on the ground as the Hardrockers ran for 202 net yards.
Jeydon Cox added 60 yards on the ground for Chadron State, while Mikelson had 166 yards receiving on six catches and the one score.
Defensively, Adrian Eastman and Will Carroll had nine tackles each, with Eastman earning eight solo stops. Casey Knutsen had an interception for the 'Rockers, returning it 15 yards. Bryan Akunna had two quarterback sacks for 15 yards in losses.
Linebacker Jeremiah Makahununiu led the Eagles with 11 tackles, including seven solo, while Cole Condon added seven stops, including one for a loss. Brendan Hopkins had one QB sack and Brenden Bremer and Bobby Peele both had one interception each.
The Hardrockers will be at Colorado Mesa Saturday, while Chadron State hosts Black Hills State. The two teams meet again Oct. 31 in Rapid City.
Con Marshall contributed to this report
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