After over 30 practices this off-season the Chadron State Eagles are eager to get off the practice field and into game action. The team’s coaching staff will use this week to fine-tune their game plan. But for the most part, Head Coach Jay Long is happy with the team he’ll send out against Black Hills State Saturday.
“I feel good with where we’re at right now,” Long said. “I think our team is ready to go. They’re ready to go hit someone else.”
Chadron’s offense returns nine of its starters from last year’s team and will once again be led by sophomore Dalton Holst, of Gillette, Wyoming, who last year threw for 2,337 yards and 14 touchdowns.
With senior T.D. Stein, of Chadron, healthy again there was question as to who would start, but Long was quick to answer that it would be Holst.
“Dalton’s our guy,” Long said. “He had a great summer and he’s throwing really well. He’s looking forward to building off his
Long and Eagles Offensive Coordinator Chris Stein both expect that T.D. will get looks throughout the season.
“We’ll have a few packages where we’ll get T.D. in,” Long said.
Prior to the season, Eagles’ offensive linemen Jake Geil, Travis Romsa and Colt Foster were named to the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference preseason All-Star team and will serve as veterans alongside a duo of younger linemen.
“We’ve got three seniors so I can’t feel bad about the O-line,” Chris Stein said. “They’re all three good players, they’re all three leaders, and Jared (Maciejczak) fits right in with them. He might as well be a senior – thank God he’s not – but he might as well be.”
Add redshirt freshman, Austin Rapp, and the offensive coordinator is feeling “pretty dang good about the O-line.”
If the line plays as expected, Holst should have plenty of time to look for one of Chadron’s several dependable receivers.
“Our receiving core is very solid this year,” Long said. “It’s got a lot of talent on it and I think we have a couple guys who can break the game open with big plays.”
The coaching staff is also confident in their backfield which features senior Kevin Coy along with juniors Stevann Brown, of Casper, Wyoming, and Priest Jennings, of Stockton, California, who are expected to start despite being held out of practice to heal some “bumps and bruises.”
In the wake of Brown and Jennings sitting practices out, true freshman Elijah Myles, of Hawthorne, California, has emerged as a prospective back this season.
“This year’s offense won’t change much but it has been working to improve the pace with which it plays,” Chris Stein said.
Unlike the offense, the defense lost several players this past season, but Long said he’s not concerned.
“I’m excited about our defense,” Long said. “We graduated nine seniors, but when I look at the guys that we have I think we have the talent to be one of the best defenses in the conference.”
Long says that senior athletes Kyle Temple, of Norfolk, on the defensive line; Zecharie James, of Hampton, Virginia, who Long says is now in a position to be “the guy” in the secondary; and linebacker Keenan Johnson are three players he expects to be leaders on the defense.
“One of the things Chadron State has always been known for is we have tough people and tough teams, and that’s something we want to continue…” Long said. “When you have a bunch of guys that are great workers and come from great families, those are things that help build that atmosphere, and that culture, that’s what our program’s all about.”