In many ways the 2023 Chadron High School football season was unlike any other.
The Cardinals had a new head coach, with widely recognized social studies teacher and assistant coach of many years Michael Sandstrom replacing Mike Letcher.
Letcher, also a highly respected teacher and head grid mentor for the past 16 years before deciding to step down from the top job, stayed on to help with the transition by serving as an assistant.
What came to light was unusual. It can be called a “one-man show”. Quinn Bailey, who was the first Chadron High running back to rush for 1,000 yards as a sophomore last year, carried the ball 75% of the time. Some games it seemed like he carried it with him to every game.
No one seemed to dispute the strategy. This was the best way for the Cardinals to utilize their potential, and it produced some great results.
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While the Red Birds did not win all of their games. They finished the regular season with a 6–3 record and advanced to the Class C-1 playoffs, which generally means a team was/is a high quality team.
These wins included a 22–16 win over a formidable Gering team, which several media reports called an upset after the Cards had won 28–20 over Gothenburg, and a 28–21 win over perennial power McCook in the season finale. Judgment was involved, which was refreshing. Previously undefeated Adams topped the Central and made the playoffs 20 consecutive years.
All losses were to teams that had greater size and a larger arsenal of weapons. In some cases, those opponents’ smallest linemen were bigger than the Cardinals’ tallest linemen. Two of them—Michelle and Sydney—had their best teams in years and this year’s Ogallala crew was not far behind.
All went to the playoffs.
A hard-fought win over McCook allowed the Cards to qualify for the playoffs. Their opponent was the state’s third-ranked Ashland-Greenwood, which featured standout athletes at every position and a C-! Semifinalist. It included several college prospects and all-staters.
Sandstrom said, “I thought we improved on defense and held up well against some of the toughest attacks Western Nebraska has faced in recent years.” “We were really strong at linebacker with Gage Wild, Quinn Bailey and Caden Buskirk making a lot of tackles. The defensive line and secondary seemed to improve every game. Many players gave us solid performances.
“Obviously, we relied a lot on our run game and we were very successful with it.” The coach continued. “We did some good things too. Our senior quarterback (Brock Berry) threw to a variety of receivers for some big touchdowns and key first downs.
The rushing game gained 2,430 yards, more than usual. Bailey scored 1,997 of them for a school record. The previous record of 1,590 was set in 1985 by Jeff Mueller, now a resident of Colorado, who came to the Cardinals’ final home game and presented Quinn with a plaque for his accomplishment.
Muller passed the ball 270 times during his stellar season, while Bailly passed the ball 274 times this season. Since Bailey averaged 7.3 yards a carry, one more carry would undoubtedly have put him over the 2,000-yard mark. Now, she will have a specific goal for her senior season next fall.
Bailey also set the Cardinals’ single-game rushing record when he broke 346 yards on 25 carries for a 13.8-yard average against Alliance. The old single-game mark of 287 yards was set 42 years earlier in 1981 by Rex Stahla in a game Chadron lost.
Bailey’s total got a big boost when he ran 93 yards from the 7-yard line to tie Travis Reeves’ school record for longest touchdown run from scrimmage, set against Torrington in 2006. The Cardinals’ No. 21 running back also had three more games this fall when he ran for more than 200 yards. They were 257 vs. Gordon-Rushville (6th all-time), 245 vs. Gering (8th) and 206 Vs. Ogallala (17th).
Mueller, Reeves, Jackson Dickerson, Jake Lemmon and Logan Tiensvold are on the latter list twice, but Bailey is the first to do more than that. He rushed for at least 140 yards in every other game except Mitchell, when he gained 91 yards and averaged 5.1 yards a carry.
His other Chadron High records include most touchdowns in a season with 30, all from the line of scrimmage except his 80-yard kickoff return against Alliance. The old record of 23 TDs was held by Jackson Dickerson from 2014.
With one season still to go, Bailey already owns the Cardinals’ all-time single game (523 vs. Alliance) and career all-purpose yardage records and touchdown totals, but we’ll have to wait until next year to match them.
Bailey, who stands about 5-8, 165 pounds, isn’t much interested in how many yards he’s thrown for or how many records he’s set. Now he is preparing to defend the state wrestling championship he earned a year ago.
“Whatever is best for the team,” he said of his football assignments. “I like to carry the ball, but I also like to fake things when the ball goes to someone else. “Sometimes my job becomes easier because others have opened doors for me.”
Offensive linemen included seniors Gabe Tidyman and Blake Rembrandt, who played in addition to center after Bryson Bickell was injured, as well as juniors Zane Cullers, John Fintel and Owen Weiss.
Wingbacks Gage Wild and Caden Buskirk were also excellent blockers after the game and often linked up with Darian Dye when the Red Birds moved into their “Beast Formation” and Bailey took direct snaps from center.
Bailey also noted that Berry helped scout out potential dealmakers from time to time. In particular, he smiles and reminds the senior signal caller of making a “pancake block” that helped pave the way for more yards in tough games against Gothenburg and McCook.
While the Cardinals threw for just 807 yards this year after gaining 1,376 yards through the air a year ago, the passing game was still a key weapon this fall.
In particular, fans will remember Berry’s short toss being carried 74 yards by the Wild for a first-round TD against Gothenburg and Trey Hendrickson’s 52-yard pass for a TD against Sydney. Yarde’s aerials and Tobin Rust caught a 36-yard shot.
Another one of the Cardinals, Talon Jellinek, who missed the first half of the season due to mononucleosis, tallied his only pass reception as he went for a touchdown in the narrow win over McCook. In the previous game against Alliance, Jellinek had a record-setting rushing record by returning an interception 78 yards for a touchdown, breaking the old mark of 67 owned by Andy Gooder from 2002. (Guder presented a plaque to Jelinek for this.)
Recognition should also go to twins Braden and Brycen Wright, who saw action on both sides of the ball and played perhaps as well as any freshman in Cardinals history. Stay connected with him and his classmates for more great things.
The Cardinals’ statistics are as follows:
Total Net Yards; 3,237; 3,258
rushing yards; 2,430; 1,851
passing yards; 807; 1,407
to go past; 59-123-5; 105-209-10
run; , No.; Yds.; Bird
Quinn Bailey; 274; 1,997; 7.3
Layne Davidson; 28; 167; 5.9
Tobin Landen; 3; 40; 16.7
Tyler Spotted Elk; 3; 25; 8.3
to receive; , No.; Yds.; Bird
Trey Hendrickson; 13; 209; 16.1
Quinn Bailey; 9; 124; 13.8
Caden Buskirk; 9; 58; 8.3
Tyler Spotted Elk; 1; 13; 13
Blake Rembrandt; 1; 3; 3
Scoring; , TD; Pat; score.
Caden Buskirk, Trey Hendrickson, Matt Laine,
Tobin Rust, Gage Wild, Braden Wright, all 1 TD.
Blake Rembrandt, a 2-point conversion.
Kickoff Returns; , No.; Yds.; Bird
Quinn Bailey; 19; 458; 24.1
Braden Wright; 9; 133; 14.8
Caden Buskirk; 2; four five; 22.5
Layne Davidson; 3; 29; 9.7
Point Return; , No.; Yds.; Bird
to signal; , No.; Bird.; Bird
Brock Berry; 13; 383; 29.5
Quinn Bailey; 9; 229; 25.3
tackle; , One.; Assistant; Total
Caden Buskirk; 25; 31; 56
Blake Rembrandt; 29; 6; 37
Trey Hendrickson; 19; 14; 33
Layne Davidson; 10; 8; 23
interception-Trey Hendrickson 3, Blake Rembrandt 2
Chadron High Football Single Game Leaders
1. Quinn Bailey; 346 Vs. Alliance, 2023 (25)
2. Rex Stahla; 287 V. Mitchell, 1981 (27)
3. Jake Lemmon; 269 vs. Gering, 2018 (44)
4. Dillon Sayalune; 264 vs. Broken Bow, 2019 (27)
5. Dale Grant; 258 V. Douglas, S.D., 1972
6. Quinn Bailey; 257 vs. Gordon-Rushville, 257 (35)
7. Jake Lemmon; 252 vs. Ogallala, 2018 (44)
8. Quinn Bailey; 245 vs Gering, 2023 (39)
9. Omar Rogers; 244 vs. Rushville, 1986
10. Jeff Muller; 233 v. Gering, 1985
11. Jeff Muller; 226 Vs. Rushville, 1985
12. Travis Reeves; 223 Vs. Torrington, 2006
13. Colby Risen; 221 Vs. Michelle, 2011
14. Logan Tiensvold; 221 Vs. Michelle, 2017
15. Jackson Dickerson; 220 vs. Ogallala, 2013
16. Travis Reeves; 214 vs. Bridgeport, 2007
17. Quinn Bailey; 206 Vs. Ogallala, 2023 (28)
18. Logan Tiensvold; 204 Vs. Michelle, 2016
19. Jackson Dickerson; 203 vs. valentine, 2014
20. Malachi Swallow; 203 vs. Gering, 2022 (8 carries. Including two 85-yard TD jaunts on jet sweeps. Gering returned the ensuing kickoff for touchdowns both times for his only points of the game.)
Rush numbers in parentheses.
Chadron High 1,000-yard rushers statistics
Yam; , Hence; Yds.; Bird.; TD; score; Year
Denny Bach; 136; 1,013; 7.4; Eleven; 71; 1962
Dale Grant; 269; 1,009; 5.9; 13; 78; 1972
Ted Grant; 182; 1,076; 5.9; 8; 52; 1974
Doug French; 193; 1,210; 6.8; 14; 86; 1980
Rex Stahla; 190; 1,061; 5.6; 4; 24; 1982
Jeff Mueller; 270; 1,590; 5.8; Eleven; 66; 1985
Omar Rogers; 209; 1,232; 5.9; Eleven; 66; 1986
Omar Rogers; 196; 1,484; 7.6; 17; 104; 1987
Mike Coombs; 204; 1,140; 5.7; Twenty; 120; 1988
John Ritzen; 129; 1,139; 8.8; 22; 134; 2005
Will Brown; 152; 1,274; 8.4; 17; 102; 2009
Jackson Dickerson; 146; 1,015; 6.9; 23; 140; 2014
Logan Tiensvold; 176; 1,048; 6.0; 17; 110; 2017
Dawson Dunbar 157; 1,167; 7.4; 18; 110; 2021
Quinn Bailey; 167; 1,023; 6.1; 14; 88; 2022
Quinn Bailey; 274; 1,997; 7.3; 30; 184; 2023