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Chase intensifies - Eagles pose major hurdle

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By Dave Kavanaugh

Highlands’ biggest challenge to date, at least as far as the 2012 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference football schedule is concerned, takes place this Saturday at Perkins Stadium.

Chadron State is 5-2 overall, having lost only to non-conference foe Montana State and the current No. 1 team in the nation, Colorado State-Pueblo; the latter contest was decided by a touchdown, 45-38.

CSC is scoring an average of 33.4 points and accumulating 393.4 yards a game. Defensively, the Eagles allow 22.4 points and 343.7 yards a game. Balance is key to success for Chadron, which rushes and passes with equal commitment, gaining 190.6 yards on the ground and 202.9 through the air per game. Glen Clinton is averaging 5.9 rushing yards a carry and 111.9 a game. John McLain has 17 pass TDs to his credit and just three interceptions, completing 68.1 percent. Five of those TD passes have been caught by deep threat Nathan Ross.

Kevin Lindholm paces the Chadron defense with 70 total tackles, 10 for loss, and three sacks — all team highs. Five Eagle defenders have picked off at least one pass; Conor Casey has four returned for 80 yards.

NMHU is averaging 37.4 points and 378.3 yards a game while limiting foes to 24.1 points and 349.3 yards. Emmanuel Lewis has settled nicely into the quarterback job, completing 58 percent of his passes for an average 384 yards a game. He’s thrown 19 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Kevon Williams (42 catches, 574 yards, four TDs) and Darius Davis (41 catches, 725 yards, eight TDs) lead a deep group of receivers.

The Cowboy defense is holding opponents to 30 percent on third-down conversions and has forced 13 turnovers, roughly two per game. Abdul Kanneh has a team-best six interceptions and had returned two for scores. Jared Koster (a team-high 67 tackles, eight for loss, one sack, one pick), DiAmaal Holmes (58 stops, one interception), Jordan Campbell (51 stops, and team highs in tackles for loss with 13 and sacks with seven) are among the other defensive leaders.

A continuing weakness has been penalties, as NMHU has been hit with 89 costing 875 yards in seven games, an average of 125 yards per contest.

NOTE: NMHU and CSC shared the RMAC title in 1999. Since then, the Eagles have won five, including three straight from 2006 to 2008.