Story and photo courtesy of Chadron State Athletics
LAS VEGAS, N.M. – Chadron State quarterback Jonn McLain found Allan Schmaltz for a 21-yard touchdown in the back of the end zone with 36 seconds to play to give the Eagles a thrilling 36-33 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference victory over New Mexico Highlands Saturday.
The Eagles, who trailed by double digits twice in the game, drove 75 yards in 10 plays in just over a minute to secure their victory and improve to 6-2 overall and 5-1 in the RMAC.
“I’m just extremely proud of the guys,” first-year head coach Jay Long said. “We kept competing until the end and they always believed in one another and that’s something we have at Chadron State that is very special. It was here when I played and it’s here now.”
Highlands, now 6-2 and 5-1 in the RMAC, still had a chance to move into field goal range on its final possession but safety Cole Montgomery intercepted quarterback Emmanuel Lewis’ pass to thwart any additional late game dramatics.
The fourth quarter was wild as each team owned a lead before Schmaltz’s touchdown sealed the Cowboys’ fate.
Chadron State went up 27-26 early in the final quarter when McLain connected with Chapman Ham on a 25-yard strike. On the drive, CSC successfully converted three third downs.
After the Cowboys went three and out on offense, the Eagles seized their chance and added a field goal – a 34 yarder from Alex Ferdinand – to go up, 30-26.
The Cowboys offense failed to score again on their next drive and the Eagles were looking to drive down the field and run the clock down. However, New Mexico Highlands sacked McLain on third down and the Eagles were forced to punt with four minutes to play.
On the punt, the ball sailed over punter Josh Borm’s head and the Cowboys gained possession on CSC’s side of the field. They immediately took advantage of it and scored in two plays.
Lewis scrambled for a short gain and then connected on a 20-yard touchdown pass to Kevon Williams with less than two minutes to play that put them up 36-33.
However, just like they had all game, the Eagles shrugged off the sudden change in momentum and drove down the field in quick fashion, culminating with McLain’s fourth TD pass of the day.
The Cowboys came out firing in the opening half. They fielded an onside kick on the opening play and then took a 7-0 lead on their second possession after Lavell Peterson scored from seven yards out.
Highlands added to its early lead with a 49-yard field goal from Zach Tapia and things were looking to be in the Cowboys’ favor. However, the Eagles shrugged off their sluggish start and got things going in the second quarter by scoring 10 unanswered points.
Cody Roes put the Eagles on the board first when he caught a 3-yard TD pass from McLain and Alex Ferdinand tied things up at 10-10 once he booted a 40-yard field goal.
Highlands took control late in the quarter, capitalizing on Chadron State mistakes and scoring twice within the final five minutes. Lewis hit John Webster for a 16-yard pass. Following a fumble on a punt return, Tapia kicked a 42-yard field goal as the clock ran out to give the Cowboys a 20-10 lead.
Both teams traded field goals early in the third quarter but the Eagles crawled back into the game when McLain found Schmaltz for an 18-yard score midway through the frame.