For the second Saturday in a row, the Chadron State College football team will be hosting a first-time opponent. The Eagles’ foe for their homecoming contest on Saturday is Dixie State from St. George, Utah. Kickoff will be at 1 p.m., an hour later than usual.
Last Saturday’s game against Humboldt State of Arcata, California, also was a first between the teams.
Dixie State has several other firsts this season. It’s the football team’s first year in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, the school’s athletic teams have a new nickname—Trailblazers—after previously being known as the Red Storm, and Shay McClure is in his inaugural season as the head football coach.
However, McClure is not entirely new to the Dixie State football program. A year ago he was the team’s “director of defense” after previously serving nine seasons as the defensive and recruiting coordinator at Humboldt State.
Dixie State finished 3-7 in 2015. This year’s team is 2-3 overall and 2-2 in the conference. Chadron State is 1-4 for the season and 1-3 in the RMAC.
The Trailblazers will visit Chadron State fresh from upsetting Western State 28-20 last Saturday. They opened the season with a 21-14 victory over New Mexico Highlands, then lost three games in a row.
The losses included narrow ones to South Dakota Mines, 31-27, and Black Hills State, 20-14, in conference clashes. Dixie also was toppled 40-18 by Central Washington in a non-conference game on Sept. 24, before surprising Western State. The Mountaineers had won their previous three games, including a 24-15 decision over the Eagles on Sept. 17.
The Eagles, who have won 17 of their last 18 homecoming contests, will be striving to end their four-game losing streak Saturday. Their last two setbacks have been difficult.
They fell at Adams State 31-30 after missing a 23-yard field goal with four seconds to play two weeks ago and drove 74 yards before being stopped on the Humboldt State one-yard line midway in the fourth period last Saturday.
In both games, the Eagles were missing four defensive starters because of injuries. They also have played without starting quarterback T.D. Stein since midway in the second game.
Senior Cody Paul did his best to put the Eagles in the victory column last week. He scored on a 75-yard burst through the line in the first period and returned a punt 74 yards, the sixth longest in Chadron State history, for a touchdown in the third quarter.
Dixie State had an effective ground game during its upset of Western State. The Trailblazers rushed for 288 yards with tailbacks Clifford Simms and DeJon Coleman combining to average 7.2 yards on 25 carries and scoring three touchdowns.
In addition, sophomore quarterback Blake Barney played for the first time this season and rushed for 75 yards while also completing 10 of 18 passes for 101 yards and a touchdown. A year ago, he set the Dixie State record by running for 291 yards against South Dakota Mines.
CSC head football coach Jay Long said this week that despite some disappointing losses, the team is continuing to play hard. He noted the Eagles had improved special teams play last Saturday and were called for just three penalties after being flagged 16 times the previous week.
“The young guys who are playing ahead of schedule have had a lot to learn and they’re making progress,” Long said.
A side story Saturday could be the punting game. Dixie State’s Corey Stens averaged 47.4 yards against Western State, while the Eagles’ Zach Smith averaged 45.6 against Humboldt State. Both punted five times.
For the season, Stens leads the RMAC with a 40.6-yard average and Smith is third at 40.0.