Half of CSU-Pueblo’s first half possessions during Saturday’s home game with Chadron State began in Eagles’ territory, helping the Thunderwolves break out to an early lead and an eventual 34-13 win.
Two more Thunderwolves first-half possessions would begin not far from midfield in CSU-Pueblo’s end, but the Eagles’ gifting of a short field to the opposition could have had a much worse outcome.
“Pueblo is a good football team, they’re ranked top-ten in the country right now,” Eagles’ Head Coach Jay Long says of the Thunderwolves who are now ranked ninth in the American Football Coaches Association Division II poll. “In person, and on film, they look like a top-ten team. With that said, I think our guys did some good things versus a top-ten team.”
Despite the poor field position Chadron managed to hold the Thunderwolves to just one score in the first quarter, a four-yard run by senior Marche Dennard, of Pheonix, Arizona.
The wolves would break loose in the second quarter scoring on a single-yard rush by senior running back Bernard McDondle, of Littleton, Colorado.
The short push into the end zone was set up by sophomore Luke Conilogue, of Erie, Colorado, who blocked a punt by Chadron senior Zack Kozlik.
The Thunderwolves next possession began at their own 33 yard line after a 47-yard punt on Chadron’s previous series. Dennard broke free on the second play of the series and ran 70 yards to put the team up 21-0.
The Thunderwolves would go on to add a field goal before the conclusion of the first half, and two more in the second half, as well as another touchdown when Dennard took the ball 22-yards into the end zone with 5:01 remaining in the third quarter after a nearly 70-yard drive.
Chadron got on the scoreboard in the second quarter when junior wide receiver Jackson Dickerson, of Chadron, made a great catch in heavy coverage to score a 59-yard touchdown and bring the score to 21-6 after the extra point attempt was blocked.
The Eagles would score again with just over three minutes remaining in the third quarter on another big play when true freshman Elijah Myles, of Hawthorne, California, carried the ball 47-yards to make it 31-13.
“Elijah (Myles) provided us a spark in the second half with his big run,” Coach Long said of the play.
Myles emerged as a second-half weapon for the Eagles and ultimately led the team’s rushers with 67 yards on just seven carries, an average of 9.6 yards per carry.
Altogether Chadron rushed for 118 yards in the game on 31 carries, and passed for 171. Holst completed 16 of 30 passes and was intercepted once.
CSU-Pueblo’s Dennard led all backs rushing 13 times for 147 yards. The Thunderwolves threw for 91 yards.
On defense the Eagles were led by senior Kyle Temple, of Norlfolk, who had 13 credited tackles including five solo, eight assisted, and a sack for an 11-yard loss.
Teammates Malik Goss, a freshman of Upland, California, and Keenan Johnson, a senior from Chadron, each were in on 11 tackles. Johnson, and junior Calder Forcella, of Greybull, Wyoming were credited with the other two of the team’s three sacks during the game.
Kozlik, who received preseason honors, punted nine times in the contest averaging 35 yards with a long of 49 yards, after having difficulty early in the game.
The senior punter’s first three attempts were a 7-yard kick following a three and out on the Eagles’ first possession, a 26-yard kick on the team’s second possession, and the blocked attempt on the team’s third possession.
Despite the troubles, Coach Long remains confident in his punter. “Zach (Kozlick’s) a weapon we’re going to rely on the rest of the year. It’s only our second game, I have no doubt he’ll get it fixed.”
The Eagles’ next contest will be at home against the Skyhawks of Fort Lewis as the college makes their formal dedication of the renovated Elliott Field at Don Beebe Stadium.
The stadium dedication will begin 10:30 a.m., while kickoff is slated for noon.
Fort Lewis enters Saturday’s game looking for their first win after suffering a 45-31 loss to New Mexico Highlands in their opener, and a 31-3 defeat last week at the hands of Dixie State.