By: Con Marshall
CSC Sports Information
CHADRON, Neb. -- November 14, 2019 -- The Chadron State College football team will wrap up its season Saturday at home with a special challenge. The Eagles will host what apparently is one of the best NCAA Division II teams in the nation--Colorado School of Mines. The finale will kick off at noon.
At 10-0 the mighty Orediggers are one of 11 undefeated teams in the division and have not been challenged by most of their opponents. They are ranked seventh in this week's American Football Coaches Association poll and lead the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference in virtually every important statistical category.
"This is our bowl game," said CSC Head Coach Jay Long. "We know they're a great team. We'll give it everything we've got and see what happens."
The Eagles are 6-4 for the season after winning five games in a row.
The Orediggers' closest game was last Saturday, when they topped Dixie State 35-27 by scoring what proved to be the winning touchdown midway through the fourth quarter. The Trailblazers finished with 447 yards of total offense and Mines with 403.
For the season, Mines has tallied 428 points and the opponents 146. Aside from the Dixie State game, the Orediggers' closest contest was their 34-14 decision over Colorado State-Pueblo on Sept. 21.
Two weeks ago, South Dakota Mines, the pesky team that the Eagles edged 53-48 a week ago, fell to the Orediggers by 21 points--49-28--in Rapid City.
Besides leading the RMAC in both scoring offense and defense, Mines is tops in the conference in total offense (490.1 yards a game), total defense (256.6), rushing offense (260.4), rushing defense (51.8), first downs (25.8), opponents' first downs (14.2), third down conversions (44.7 percent), opponents' third down conversions (23.1) and time of possession (33.50 minutes).
Chadron State is second to the Orediggers in the RMAC in three of the offensive categories--scoring offense (38.0 points), total offense (468.5) and first downs (24.3)--but is down a ways on most of the defensive listings.
For instance, the Eagles are eighth in total defense (387.9) and rushing defense (172.2) and sixth in opponents' first down (18.9).
"We've been playing better defense, but we know we'll have to play better than ever on Saturday if we're going to shut them down," said CSC Defensive Coordinator Craig Jersild. "They've got both a great running game and a great passing game. We're going to have our hands full, that's for sure."
The Orediggers generally prefer to run the ball.
During the first half of the season, they leaned on Cameron Mayberry, a 5-11, 210-pound senior who in 2018 led the RMAC in rushing with 1,584 yards (a 6.5 yard average) and 22 touchdowns. He was going strong again the first half of this season, gaining 636 yards through five games for a 6.0-yard per carry average and eight TDs.
But Mayberry was injured early in the second quarter of the sixth game. His replacement, Michael Zeman, a 5-11, 210 pound sophomore from Wheat Ridge, Colo., also has excelled.
Zeman has rushed 132 times for 1,064 yards, an 8.1-yard average, and scored 10 TDs. He's had two spectacular games. He ran for 298 yards during the 49-27 win over Azusa Pacific on Oct. 26 and then set the Mines' single-game record by rumbling for 321 yards the next week at South Dakota Mines.
Last Saturday, Zeman carried 22 times for 183 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown jaunt, against Dixie State.
A year ago, when the Orediggers were 10-1, losing only to Dixie State during the regular season, they brought in senior transfer Isaac Harker from Indiana State to play quarterback. He responded by completing 67.8 percent of his passes for 3,573 yards and 38 touchdowns in those 11 games.
This year's quarterback is a true freshman, John Matocha, a 5-11, 180-pound Magnolia, Texas, native. His passing totals don't match Harter's, but he's connected on 195 of 264 attempts for an amazing 73.4 completion percentage for 2,109 yards and 23 TDs.
Matocha also can run with the ball. He's carried 107 times for 535 yards and scored 10 times.
"He's a true dual threat," Jersild said of Matocha. "He's a terrific runner and also throws lots of screen passes to lull you to sleep before throwing a long one over the top."
The Eagles also have a potent offense. Their 468.5-yard total offense average is the second highest in Chadron State annals. Quarterback Dalton Holst needs just 135 more yards to become the Eagles' first 3,000-yard passer in a season, but Offensive Coordinator Logan Masters said CSC has to be able to run the ball, too, on Saturday.
"They're (Mines) only giving up 51.8 yards a game on the ground to lead the nation, so we'll have to execute really well to get our rushing game going," Masters noted. "But we're going to try."
While the Eagles lead Mines 23-18 in the all-time series, the Orediggers have won the last six games in the rivalry. Last year's score was 49-20 in Golden.