The Chadron State College football team will be doing something new on Saturday. For the first time during the spring, the Eagles will visit the University of Northern Colorado for a scrimmage.
The Eagles opened their spring drills on Sunday, March 28 and had six practices during the week before taking off Saturday and Sunday during Easter weekend. They resumed practicing on Monday and hope to get in a few more workouts this week before heading to Greeley.
Head Coach Jay Long said it’s expected that 63 players will travel. Full contact will take place except there will be no live special teams action. Northern Colorado is calling it a closed scrimmage, and it will conclude the Bears’ spring practice.
Long added that all the Eagles making the trip are expected to see action so the coaches can evaluate them.
Long said Northern Colorado’s director of football operations contacted him, asking if the Eagles would be interested in scrimmaging the Bears.
Northern Colorado is a member of the Big Sky Conference. None of the 11 football teams in the league played last fall because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but eight of them have played between three and five games this spring. However, the Bears are one of remaining three which decided not to play games, just practice.
The Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, which includes Chadron State, also did not have a football schedule last fall, but the Eagles were among about half the conference teams to play an abbreviated schedule. They had four games, going 2-2. Long said the games were beneficial, better than the usual spring practice.
Nearly all the Eagles who saw action last fall have returned. In addition, running back Elijah Myles, who rushed for 1,077 yards and 12 touchdowns as a sophomore in 2019, is back on campus this spring.
Coming off a 2-10 season in 2019, Northern Colorado chose former National Football League wide receiver Ed McCaffrey as its 16th head coach on Dec. 12, 2019. It will be about 20 months after his appointment before he coaches the Bears in a game for the first time.
After playing in the NFL for 13 seasons and helping the Denver Broncos win two Super Bowls, McCaffrey was that team’s radio color analyst for five years before taking over as the head football coach at Valor Christian High School in the Denver area. The Valor Eagles had a 24-2 record, won the Colorado 5A state championship in 2018 and reached the quarterfinals in 2019. He left that position to become the Northern Colorado mentor.
McCaffrey’s four sons also have been football standouts. The oldest, Max, played at Duke and is now Northern Colorado’s wide receiver coach. Christian was the Heisman Trophy runner-up in 2015 while playing running back at Sanford and is now All-Pro for the Carolina Panthers.
A third son, Dylan initially attended the University of Michigan, played sparingly for the Wolverines and graduated with two years of eligibility remaining. According to reports, he planned to join his father’s team at UNC, but his name is not on the Bears’ 2021 roster.
The youngest son, Luke, was a redshirt freshman quarterback and wide receiver who received lots of media attention at Nebraska last fall, but left the Cornhuskers before the final game and reportedly planned to join the University of Louisville football program. He’s also not on that team’s 2021 roster.
The Eagles also are slated to tangle with Wayne State on Saturday, April 24 at Elliott Field to help both teams conclude their spring practices. Long said it could be called either a controlled scrimmage or a joint practice.
“We are planning on doing more situations–7-on-7, inside run and 1-on-1, then finish with a scrimmage,” the Chadron State coach said.