Win hard rockers to claim the Eagle-Rock Trophy

CON MARSHALL Low Courier

Chadron State College’s long winning streak against South Dakota Mines ended Saturday as the Hard Rockers scored a touchdown in each quarter and limited the Eagles to just one in a 28-7 win in Rapid City.

It was the last game of the season for both teams. Mines finishes with a 7-4 record and the Eagles 3-8.

Chadron State had won the last 15 games between the longtime rivals since 1989, including the seven played since the Hard Rockers joined the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. The winner receives the Eagle Rock Trophy.

Much of the recent clashes have been high-scoring affairs, but defense was pretty much the name of the game on Saturday.

The Hard Rockers were steered by second quarterback Jayden Johannsen, who completed 28 of 41 passes for 304 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 49 yards for his team’s second touchdown.

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The Sioux Falls native made great use of two senior receivers. Jeremiah Briggs caught 12 passes for 123 yards and Isaiah Eastman caught seven for 85 yards. Both finished the season for 1,100+ yards.

Although he led his team to victory, it wasn’t always easy for Johannsen. He was sacked seven times for minus 50 yards, five of them by Chadron State’s star of the game, sophomore lineman Hunter O’Connor.

A 6-foot-3, 255-pound product from Legacy High School in Broomfield, Colo., O’Connor became the Eagles’ all-time season sack at 16, surpassing three previous standouts — Scott Dolfi in 1994, Casey Beran in 1999 and Bill Teerlinck in 2002 — all dropped the quarterback 14 times during those years.

O’Connor was also the lead tackler in Saturday’s game with 13, all but one of them unassisted. He was also credited with four more tackles for minus yards to set an RMAC record.

During his post-game interview, head coach Jay Long said O’Conner and his defensemen “kept us in the game as long as they could,” adding that the CSC offense “fought and was never in sync.”

The Eagles had 10 jabs to end with just 230 total net yards, their lowest since the season opener when Angelo State, now 11-0 for the season, limited CSC to 224 yards. The Eagles averaged 339 yards in total offense this season.

The Hardrockers scored on the game’s first possession by rushing for 75 yards in eight games. Johannsen connected with freshman Mason Galbreath with a 30-yard pass in the opening game, and another freshman, Ty Harris, ran the last 24 yards to the end zone. Chris Taylor scored the first of his four extra points to make it 7-0.

The Eagles had to bet on their first three possessions, but immediately after the third, linebacker Joey Geil forced Johannsen to fumble, and newcomer teammate Ritchie McCormick recovered in midfield.

A face mask penalty on Mines earned the Eagles their first first down. CSC was soon thrown back 10 yards for holding, but overcame it when quarterback Heath Beemiller connected with tight end Peter Krohn late in the first quarter with two passes for 22 yards.

After three plays in the second frame, the same pair teamed up on a four-yard throw for the Eagles’ touchdown. Gunnar Jones equalized with his PAT.

The hard rockers responded almost immediately. Johannsen completed three consecutive passes to Jeremiah Bridges for 24 yards and then broke for 49 yards to give his team a 14-7 lead.

In the first game after the subsequent kickoff, the Eagles managed the longest game of the game. It was a 50-yard pass from Beemiller to freshman Tommy Thomas that put the ball on the Mines’ 36. However, the Hard Rockers soon stopped the attack by firing the CSC quarterback and forcing another punt.

Midway through the second quarter, Beemiller and Mitchell running back Ryan Aguallo connected on a 35-yard pass play that led to the Rockers’ 19, only to be obliterated by a holding call.

Late in that frame, the Eagles had another golden opportunity when Mines punter Casey Knutsen fumbled the snap from the middle. Though Knutsen regained his bobble, it was Chadron State’s ball at Hardrockers ’29.

But in the ensuing game, Beemiller’s pass was intercepted at his team’s one-yard line by none other than Knutsen, who also plays safety. After the hosts managed a first down, O’Connor made one of his five sacks before Johannsen could offload the pass. It forced Knutsen to stab again, and the first half ended a few games later.

Mines put together a 14-game scoring drive for 88 yards midway through the third quarter. Johannsen completed eight passes for 69 of those yards, including a 10-yarder for Eastman for a touchdown.

The Hard Rockers went 87 yards in 10 games for their last TD. Johannsen threw a 12-yard pass to Jake Leone for goal with 4:27 left.

The Eagles tried to get their passing game going in the fourth period but completed only seven of 18 throws, and one of them was intercepted by Kaleb Tischler and thrown back 39 yards.

Beemiller completed 21 of 45 passes for 186 yards and was intercepted twice. Ahlonte Hair was the visitors’ lead receiver with eight catches for 72 yards.

Along with O’Connor, the Eagles’ busiest tacklers included Alliance senior safety Brendan Brehmer at nine and Geil at eight. Both Harvey Reynolds and Tanner True had seven.

Another bright spot for the Eagles was redshirt rookie Brodie Eisenbraun from Sturgis. His 10 punts averaged 43.9 yards, five of them were shot within the 20 and only one was returned. He had not stung the last five games because of an injury.

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