Picks painful for ‘Pokes

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By Dave Kavanaugh

The theme around the New Mexico Highlands campus this past week was Think Pink.

The Chadron State football team’s own spin on that was Think Pick.

A couple of pivotal first-half interceptions by the visiting Eagles were critical in making Highlands (1-6, 1-4 RMAC) have to battle uphill, and CSC (4-3, 3-2) took a 41-19 win back to Nebraska.

Chadron played bully on the line of scrimmage, enabling backs Glen Clinton and Dominic Morris to amass 134 and 108 rushing yards, respectively.
Chadron scored on the first series on Jonn McLain’s 12-yard pass to Cody Roes.

After a three-and-out defensive series by each squad, the Eagles’ Brandon Gunter jarred the ball loose from Kevon Williams’ grasp on a punt return, and Chadron got an extra possession. The Eagles got a 29-yard Michael Ziola field goal out of it for a 10-0 lead with 6:12 left in the first.

Clinton capped a seven-play, 49-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown rush, and Ziola’s point-after made it 17-0 with 9:40 to go before halftime.

The Cowboy defense carried much of the load early, containing if not stopping a potent Eagles attack, but that unit found itself on the field a lot.

The Eagles’ Trelan Taylor intercepted Jordan Mendoza midway through the second period, setting his team up at the NMHU 14. The Cowboy “D” held up, and CSC came away with a 44-yard field goal by Ziola. With 6:19 left in the half, it was 20-0.

Highlands had its first break when, on the third play of the next drive, Mendoza found Marcus Washington out along the east sideline.

Washington made a cut and turned upfield for a 64-yard touchdown. Ernesto Guerra’s point-after cut the lead to 20-7 with 4:31 left.

NMHU got the ball back after a strong defensive series. But CSC’s Kramer Hirz jumped in front of Mendoza’s pass —intended for Washington — and ran the ball back to the NMHU 3-yard line.
Clinton easily covered the 3 yards on the next play, pushing the margin to 27-7.

Highlands kept fighting, finding new hope after Tyler Puschman came up with a blocked punt early in the third quarter. Mendoza hit Washington for a 35-yard strike.

Another three-and-out by the Cowboy defense later, Highlands drove 67 yards in 10 plays and got a 44-yard field goal from Guerra. With 3:02 to go in the third, it was 27-16.

To spoil the comeback, Clinton ran the ensuing kickoff 62 yards to the NMHU 35. Four plays later, Clinton punched in.

Guerra nailed a 38-yarder four minutes into the final period to make it 34-19. But Chadron responded with a long drive and a McLain score.