It was a Homecoming where the suspense was just about as chilling as the weather for the No. 2 ranked, undefeated, ThunderWolves.
The T-Wolves came from behind to defeat the Chadron State Eagles (4-2, 3-1 RMAC) 45-38, in overtime, on Oct. 6 at the Neta end Eddie DeRose Thunderbowl.
The win was the 21st straight victory in the regular season for the T-Wolves and the fourth straight win against the Eagles.
The Eagles, who considered the game against the T-Wolves its biggest game of the season, jumped out to an early 21-3 lead, with 9:19 to play in the second quarter. Despite the early deficit, head coach John Wristen was unfazed.
“I told them (the T-Wolves), we got them right where we want them,” Wristen said.
The T-Wolves answered by scoring two touchdowns, and went into the half trailing 21-16.
Following halftime, after both teams exchanged touchdowns, the T-Wolf defense was able to stop the Eagles offense in the redzone with 5:21 remaining in the third quarter, limiting them to three points, extending the Eagles lead to 31-23.
“That was a big, big deal,” Wristen said about the stop.
The T-Wolves tied the game 31-31 one-minute later with a two-point conversion that came after a 13-yard touchdown run by freshman running back, Cameron McDondle, who came off the bench to finish the game with 12 rushes, 97 yards and two touchdowns.
“Any way I could get in there and try to help, I was ready to go. Pretty pumped up,” McDondle said
The Eagles took the lead again with 6:46 left in the fourth quarter after a 47-yard touchdown run by sophomore tail back, Michael Madkins.
The T-Wolves would answer, with 1:16 left in the game, after a one-yard touchdown rush by senior quarterback, Ross Dausin, on fourth and goal, tied the game 38-38, and would send the game into overtime.
“I got to get it in,” Dausin said about his mentality seconds before the touchdown rush.
Dausin would finish the night 18-for-30, 262 yards passing, one touchdown, three interceptions and two touchdown runs.
Entering overtime, the T-Wolves knew it had another opportunity to win, after sticking close to the Eagles who were playing their biggest game of the year.
“We knew that that we had dodged a couple of bullets, and taken their best shot,” Dausin said. “We know how resilient we are as a team and we were ready for the next round.”
The T-Wolves took its first lead of the game after an eight-yard rush by McDondle, in the first possession in overtime.
“You just hope the playmakers can make plays and execute it,” Wristen said.
The score became final, following an incomplete pass, on fourth and four, during the Eagles overtime possession.
“It was really really a great football game,” Wristen said. “Chadron State is an awesome opponent, and we just withstand a lot of great things, I was really proud of the way our guys battled. It’s just one of those things that we kept plugging away and we found a way to win.”
The T-Wolves accumulated 574 net yards against the Eagles, who came into the game ranked 27th in Division II, giving up 307 yards per game. Saturday, the Eagles gave up 312 rushing and 262 passing.
Sophomore running back, J.B. Mathews, contributed 229 of the 574 total yards gained, finishing the game with 17 rushes for 174 yards and one touchdown, while catching two passes for 55 yards.
“They did a lot of good things up front, you know, crashing inside, not letting anything up the middle,” Mathews said.
Despite the offensive success in accumulating yards, the defense went through adversity, giving up 452 total yards to an Eagles offense, which came into the game averaging 344 yards per game, ranked 102 in Division II.
“I really believe adversity introduces a team to itself,” Wristen said. “We were able to look adversity right in the eye and deal with it and battle back.”
Next week, the T-Wolves will travel to Golden, Colo. to take on the Colorado School of Mines Orediggers (4-2, 2-2 RMAC) who are coming off a 58-16 victory against the Fort Lewis Skyhawks.
“We got 24 hours to enjoy this, then we’ll work on Mines, and we’ll go to work and make sure we can handle out business,” Wristen said.