Football kicks off

Clayton Koch and Sam Garcia of Black Hills State combine to stop Chadron State’s Cole Thurness during a game Sept. 7, 2019, in Spearfish. Pioneer file photo

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SPEARFISH — Black Hills State University’s football team will have a fall season after all.

The school has coordinated with fellow Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference members South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, Chadron State, and Colorado Mesa for a five-game schedule.

Yellow Jackets’ head coach Josh Breske said the players responded enthusiastically to Monday’s announcement.

“They’re excited not only just to be playing, but they’re excited about who we’re playing,” Breske said. “Our student-athletes were almost doing backflips when we told them.”   

Black Hills State’s schedule begins with an Oct. 10 contest at South Dakota Mines, with kickoff set for 5 p.m.

Black Hills State will host Colorado Mesa at noon Saturday, Oct. 17.

Chadron State welcomes the Yellow Jackets at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24.

Following a bye week, Black Hills State will have two home games to end the campaign. The Yellow Jackets host South Dakota Mines on Nov. 7 and Chadron State on Nov. 14. Both contests begin at 1 p.m.

All games will be played as non-conference contests.

“It was us being able to put into place (COVID-19) testing protocols that were outlined by the NCAA,” Black Hills State Athletic Director Jhett Albers said. He added the other three were the other ones able to do so.

Albers said the six other conference schools either could not put together that testing, couldn’t put together the testing and get results within the proper time frame, or did not have the available test resources. Those are Adams State, Colorado Mines, CSU-Pueblo, Fort Lewis, New Mexico Highlands, and Western State.

Protocols for fans, players, and after-game meetings for Black Hills State’s three home games are not yet in place. Albers said the school would probably look at what Spearfish High School is doing with respect to social distancing and encouraging mask usage.

“We’ll probably be a little different as far as ticket sales, entering the gate, and exiting the gate,” Albers said. He added those would be put together before the October starting date.

“I feel good about it from being able to provide the student-athletes the opportunity,” Albers said. He added their health and safety come first, and the school wants those testing protocols in place to make it happen.

Competition is still three to four weeks away. Albers said it is an opportunity to test and keep student-athletes healthy.

If a surge with many positive COVID-19 tests happens in the interim, the school would follow all CDC guidelines including quarantining and self-isolation, Albers said.

Breske said the players are eagerly anticipating more than simply the chance to play games.

“These guys want to practice,” Breske said. “They want to get out and hit. They’ve been itching for a chance to show us new coaches who they are when they put their pads on.”

“We’re just following all the NCAA guidelines,” Breske said in describing the protocols going forward. They include testing all players and coaches every week on campus to be in what he called a “championship segment” and compete in games.

The school’s athletic trainers and Monument Health helped the team set up testing.

Breske commended President Dr. Laurie Nichols, Head Athletic Trainer Tony Silva, and Albers for their efforts in that setup.

Workout sessions before the announcement centered on proper weight room techniques, how to enter and exit the room, how to dress for the room. Players and coaches also addressed a lot of introductory material concerning the offense, defense, and special teams.

Breske said the Yellow Jacket players engaged in an outdoor practice Sept. 4. Coaches showed players where to be for particular drills.

“We have only a handful of practices, and we’ve budgeted those out to make sure that we’re prepared for our first game,” Breske said.

He said the coaching and athletic training staffs must always pay attention to the legs, amount of running, and volume of lifting. That is to reduce the risk of injury, he added.

Breske said Black Hills State might be one of a handful of Division II football programs across the nation playing this fall.

He added the school is fortunate and blessed to be in this situation.

“We have great administration, great leadership in place that value our student-athlete experience,” Breske said. 

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