It has been repeatedly emphasized that Chester is not the same team that won the 3A state title and went unbeaten last season. Taking a look at the Cyclones’ effort Friday, there were too many similarities to ignore.
The defending state champs started incredibly hot, then kept Lancaster at an arm’s length throughout the game, taking a 33-12 victory at Memorial Stadium.
“(We were) really good on defense,” stated Chester coach Victor Floyd. “Offensively, there are still a lot of mistakes, and a lot of corrections. (There were) a lot of things to work on.”
Corrections aside, Floyd’s Cyclones got things underway in exactly the manner their leader hoped.
Chester (4-1) scored on its first three possessions. A seven-yard Stan Mills scamper gave the Cyclones a 7-0 lead just over five minutes into the game, with star sophomore quarterback Zan Dunham contributing touchdown runs of three and 28 to extend the visitors’ margin to 20-0.
“We got a fast start. That was big,” said Floyd. “Two weeks ago, we came out really flat against Rock Hill and didn’t play well in the beginning, so I thought it was huge for us to get a fast start tonight.”
Lancaster (1-4) found itself stymied by the active Chester defense. The Cyclones forced the Bruins to punt on five of their seven first-half possessions, taking that 20-0 lead to the interval.
Dunham took another carry around left end on the second play of the second half, running 34 yards to extend the Cyclone lead to 26-0. Sean Truesdale then cashed in a 13-play, 72-yard drive with a four-yard touchdown run on the ensuing drive to put the Bruins on the board.
A significant sequence occurred following that Lancaster score. The Bruins forced a punt after a short drive on the next Chester possession. The home side was unable to continue its momentum, however, as the Cyclones forced a three-and-out from the Bruins.
“That was huge. That was a big defensive series for us,” Floyd said.
Lancaster then went 92 yards in five plays on its next possession, with a picturesque ball from Truesdale to JP Cunningham down the right sideline for a 52-yard touchdown cutting the Chester lead to 26-12.
The Bruins could draw no closer, though, as the Cyclones got a 26-yard connection from Dunham to Ja’Rel Hill to provide the game’s final margin.
Lancaster coach Marcus Surratt acknowledged the Cyclones’ firepower.
“We didn’t actually stop them. What we were able to do was (to) slow them down a little bit,” said Surratt. “Once they got a comfortable lead, it allowed them to scale back their offense and do some things, but we definitely didn’t stop them.
“Everything they did, we saw on film. The bottom line is (that) our guys just didn’t show up to play.”
Dunham enjoyed another big night. In tandem with the three rushing scores and 100-plus rushing yards, the sophomore completed 11-of-19 throws for 126 yards.
“It’s really a confidence thing for him,” Floyd said “He’s gotten more comfortable this year. We’re asking him to do a little more, and he’s gradually getting better with it. He’s getting better week-to-week.”
Chester’s rushing trio of Stan Mills, Ly’Terrence Mills, and Ja’Rel Hill combined for greater than 220 yards on the ground.
Truesdale rushed 17 times for 85 yards, along with the 52-yard touchdown strike to Cunningham. Cunningham hauled in two passes for 69 yards.
Chester hosts the Carolina Bearcats next week. Lancaster will be off next week, then begin Region 3-4A play at Richland Northeast on Oct. 4. Both games are slated for a 7:30 start.