Story and photo courtesy of Chadron State Athletics
– Four quarters just wasn’t enough for a group of 10 Chadron State College seniors who were playing in their final game Saturday at Elliott Field.
The Eagles weathered a scoreless first half and then scored the only touchdown in overtime when Jeff Alcorn caught a 6-yard toss from quarterback Brandon Gorsuch to turn back a feisty Colorado Mesa University team 24-17 in the regular season finale for both teams.
With the win, Chadron State ends its season with a 6-5 record, including a 6-3 mark in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. The Eagles have been at least .500 every season except 2004 since 1988.
While the game certainly had a happy ending for Chadron State, the first half was another story as the Eagles fell behind 7-0. In the opening 30 minutes, the Eagles outgained Mesa (145 to 125 yards) but penalties and a fumble on their own 31-yard line early in the second quarter proved costly when Jake Cimolino carried a 20-yard pass into the end zone.
The second half didn’t start well either after Mesa (4-7, 3-6 RMAC) recovered the opening kickoff. However, Chadron State’s defense forced the Mavericks into a three-and-out – Mesa had four on the day – and finally found pay dirt on the next possession.
On the scoring drive, Gorsuch found Brandon Gunter, who led all receivers with nine receptions for 83 yards, for a key third down conversion and then the junior quarterback connected with Alcorn on a 44-yard strike that set up the offense at the 15-yard line. On the next play, Gorsuch hit Chapman Ham in stride and he carried two Mesa defenders to the goal line for the Eagles’ first score of the game.
The Eagles took their first lead on their next drive when Alex Ferdinand booted a 40-yard field goal with 7:51 to play in the third quarter.
Mesa came right back, though, after receiving good field position thanks to Trent deBraga’s 80-yard kick return. A pair of CSC penalties set the Mavericks up at the 5-yard line but they wouldn’t get any closer and settled for a 23-yard field goal from Caleb Pavy.
The teams traded punts until CSC offensive lineman Garrett Gilkey halted a Mesa drive when he blocked a 29-yard field goal attempt early in the fourth quarter.
Glen Clinton, who ran for 147 yards in the game, carried the ball five times on the 80-yard march, but the biggest play came when Gorsuch found a leaping Allen Schmaltz for a 24-yard pass in the middle of the field. Following two short runs, Schmaltz, who has the highest vertical on the team, bounded over the offensive and defensive lines for a 1-yard TD that put CSC up, 17-10.
Mesa quickly responded after another long deBraga return, this time covering 39 yards. After a bad snap was recovered by Mesa, wide receiver Robert Felberg took a reverse pass and threw down the sideline to a wide open Nathan Neville for a 35-yard touchdown with 8:35 remaining.
Neither team threatened to score the rest of the game until Gorsuch, who completed 23 of 36 passes for 240 yards, hooked up with Alcorn, who stretched to reach the end zone, in the first overtime period on third down.
Mesa’s possession in overtime didn’t go well. Cimolino was tackled for a loss by Keifer Burke on the first play and three straight incomplete passes followed.
The Eagles’ defense was strong, limiting Mesa to just 203 total yards and five first downs in the second half. Kevin Lindholm finished with a game-high 12 tackles and James Belville added eight more.