CHADRON, Neb. — August 28, 2018 — Chadron State College’s new football field and stadium will be initiated Saturday evening when the Eagles match up against Black Hills State in both teams’ Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference opener. Kickoff will be at 6:30.
This will be the first night game played at Elliott Field since November 1977, when Chadron High School’s first state playoff game against Adams Central was moved there to accommodate the large crowd that was anticipated. The last college game played there at night was on Sept. 25, 1976 against Kearney State.
This will be the 75th game between Chadron State and Black Hills State, but the first time they have opened the season against one another since 1942.
Chadron State head coach Jay Long has often noted that the sparkling new facilities, including the turf, a flashy video screen and increased seating capacity, have added lots of energy and excitement to the program.
“It’s a great atmosphere with everything we could wish for,” Long said. “We’ve got the best of everything—turf, stadium, press box and lights. We’ve also got a great group of seniors and we’ve added another outstanding freshman class this year. And, we’re definitely in shape, thanks to our weight and strength program.”
The fact that the initial game is against Black Hills also makes the opener special.
The series dates back to 1912, the second year that what was then Nebraska State Normal School at Chadron was in operation. Six times prior to 1925, they played one another twice in a season. There were gaps in the rivalry in the 1930s and ’50, but the Eagles and Jackets met annually from 1964 through 1995, when the Eagles began playing at least nine Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference opponents and the teams had difficulty fitting each other into the schedules.
This will be the seventh game in the rivalry that was resumed in 2012 after the Yellow Jackets joined the conference. The Eagles have won five of the previous six games, but Black Hills returned two interceptions for touchdowns and won 21-19 in 2016, the last time the teams played in Chadron. The previous two games also were nail-biters that the Eagles won—33-28 in 2014 and 39-38 in 2015.
Last Nov. 4, when the teams played in Spearfish, Chadron State jumped out to a 22-0 lead in the first quarter, led 35-0 at halftime and won 35-14.
The Eagles finished last season 6-5 overall and 6-4 in the RMAC. The Yellow Jackets, who did not play a non-conference foe last fall, were 5-5.
With nine starters returning, the Eagles expect to have an outstanding offense. After graduating five regulars in the line and four stalwarts in the secondary, the Chadron State defense is being rebuilt.
Coordinator Jeff Larson said he has plenty of candidates to fill the vacancies left by last year’s seniors, particularly in the line where he said he’ll probably take a look at from eight to 10 players Saturday night.
While the personnel is being tested to find the right combinations, Larson is counting on veterans Keenan Johnson, Tyler Lewis and Merritt Crabtree to hold the fort at linebacker. All three have regulars the past two seasons.
Graduation also stripped Black Hills of quite a bit of experience last fall. Only four players on offense and five on defense who started against the Eagles last fall have returned. But BHSU head coach John Reiners, a CSC graduate and former Eagles’ assistant coach, said nearly all the players taking over as starters played part-time last year and are anxious to prove they can do the job.