Mavericks fall to Chadron State in season’s final football game
Mesa State’s offense was very good on sudden change Saturday in the final game of the football season.
The Mavericks scored all three of their touchdowns after forcing turnovers and partially blocking a punt.
In between, though, Chadron State’s offense chewed up yardage and chunks of time off the clock in a 31-21 RMAC victory on senior day at Stocker Stadium.
“They take care of that football,” Mesa State coach Joe Ramunno said. “Possession time, it was tough. We couldn’t put anything together and when we did it was a big play, one play.”
Mesa State’s offense had the ball for only 17 minutes, 17 seconds the entire day, and the offensive numbers showed.
The Mavericks (3-7, 3-6 RMAC) managed only 129 yards of total offense, a mere 30 yards rushing.
With the Eagles’ big, physical defensive line stuffing the Mavs’ running game, Mesa took to the air, but completed only eight of 23 passes and had three intercepted.
Chadron running back Dominic Morris outgained Mesa State by himself, rushing for 153 yards and one touchdown and catching six passes for 71 yards and another score.
Time and time again, the Mavericks seemed to have Chadron State stopped on third and long. If the Eagles needed seven yards, they picked up 71⁄2 to keep drives going.
Chadron’s scoring drives:
12 plays, 81 yards, 5:06 off the clock (touchdown)
13 plays, 54 yards, 5:51 (field goal)
5 plays, 64 yards, 2:54 (touchdown)
10 plays, 58 yards, 4:35 (touchdown)
And the one that really hurt:
11 plays, 86 yards, 6:33 (touchdown)
Mesa State had scored to pull within 24-14 early in the second half, forcing and recovering another fumble (Chadron lost four fumbles). J.R. Hamm lost his footing but regained his balance for a 17-yard touchdown with 13:51 left in the third quarter and the Mavericks seemed to have the momentum.
The kickoff pinned Chadron State back at its own 14 and on third down, Jonn McLain threw incomplete. The Mavericks, though, were called for pass interference. The Eagles just kept grinding away, mixing short runs with a couple of big pass plays until they got the ball down to the 13.
McLain threw a quick out to Travis Reeves, who handed off to Morris coming around on a reverse, and he sprinted down the sideline for the score after Chadron had taken 61⁄2 minutes off the clock.
“We couldn’t get the ball back,” Ramunno said. “That was frustrating. We’ve got to make a play now and that pressures things a little bit. That’s kind of been the story of our season.”
Mesa went three and out on its next series, but the Mavs’ Zay Lopez intercepted backup quarterback Garrett Treffer to give the ball back to the offense.
Lopez led the Mavs with 14 tackles, one interception and one fumble recovery in his final game.
“All of the seniors came together and we wanted to make sure we went out on a good note, just left it all out on the field,” said Lopez, smiling through tears as fellow senior Nainoa Campbell draped a lei around his neck, a tradition of the Hawaiian players on senior day.
“We always talked about not having any regrets when we leave Mesa. We went out and played hard, even though it didn’t always go our way.”
The Mavs tried their own trick play on second down, with wide receiver Robert Felberg coming around the end for a toss. He threw down the sideline for Brennan Belloni, who hesitated for a split second while the ball was in the air, and it sailed past him.
“In situations like that, you’ve got to make those plays,” Ramunno said. “That’s where we’re at, we haven’t been able to make big plays when we needed to.”
The Mavs deflected a Chadron punt from its own end zone that went out of bounds at the 21, and Michael Mankoff wasted no time, throwing to Felberg for a touchdown with 2:29 to play to cut it to 31-21.
Mesa forced and recovered a fumble on Chadron’s first play of the game. Jake Edmiston stripped the ball away from Glen Clinton and Chaz Vaughan recovered at the 9.
Will Halboth scored from the 1 for a 7-0 lead five minutes into the game.
Several young Mavericks had stellar games.
Junior defensive end Domonique Lewis had 13 tackles, two for lost yardage, and Edmiston, a redshirt freshman linebacker, had 12 tackles, forced three fumbles and had three tackles for 13 yards in lost yardage.
“We have a lot of young guys that are going to be good the next couple of years,” senior nose tackle Tony Kelly said. “We do work hard in the offseason, I think we’re one of the hardest-working programs in our conference. It should pay off in the long run.”
His counterpart on the offensive line, center Ryan Swope, saw progress as the season went along.
“Ever since February we’ve been building on a lot of leadership and tradition,” he said. “We really picked up with that and for years to come, it’s going to pick up and catch on like wildfire. Hopefully that’ll be good for the young guys.”