Chester can’t win a state championship in September.
But the Cyclones have firmly displayed their credentials for a Williams-Brice Stadium appearance later this season.
The latest evidence came Sept. 12 in the undefeated Cyclones’ home game against previously undefeated Lancaster. Victor Floyd’s crew completed just two passes, but dominated the game from the second quarter on. The 41-20 win sent out another hint that Chester (5-0) can compete statewide in November and December.
“Like Coach Floyd said, they slept on us, now we’ve got to put ourselves on the map,” said Chester’s Ly’Terrence Mills.
Wednesday may have been the last normal day in the Carolinas for… who knows how long.
So even as Hurricane Florence trained its sights on the two states, high school football teams scurried to get Week 4 games played before Thursday and Friday’s frightening weather arrived. As such, Chester was probably not the only school in the state that had its field decorations outlined but not filled in with paint.
The short week of preparation also showed in a game that had its sloppy moments, many more of them for Lancaster. Chester coach Victor Floyd focused on special teams in his two days of practice, knowing that Lancaster would probably spend its time on offense and defense.
“We’re really not gonna change what we do, so I thought special teams was an area where we might get an edge,” said Floyd.
The Cyclones’ offensive game plan didn’t deviate from what’s been put on film the last four games. They ran the ball 25 times in the first 26 offensive plays and finished the first half with 37 carries and two pass attempts. The Cyclones also finished the first half with a 27-7 lead.
Chester bludgeoned the Bruins (4-1) on its first two offensive possessions and coldly took advantage of two turnovers -- the first a Ly’Terrence Mills 33-yard interception return for a touchdown and the second a Mills fumble recovery on the ensuing drive -- to build an insurmountable lead.
“The pick-six was amazing, once I caught it I had to go score,” Mills said afterward, barely containing his grin. “That’s my first pick-six and my first touchdown of the season.”
Neither team tolerates turnovers very well because of their direct, run-focused offensive schemes and relative discomfort throwing the football. And it was Lancaster that gave the clearest evidence of that fact on Wednesday night, coughing the ball up twice in the first two quarters. Chester took advantage of the first, Mills returning his interception down the right side of the field for a touchdown that lurched the momentum in the home team’s favor.
Lancaster coach Bobby Collins didn’t think the pick-six was as critical as something else.
“Our defense just not being able to stop them,” he said. “What they do on offense, to see it live, they do a heck of a job. Coach Victor Floyd is a hall of fame coach in my opinion. For the amount of kids he had one the sideline, his kids played hard for four quarters. I think they’ll be a state championship football team this year.”
Lancaster also struggled snapping the football, the Bruins using three different centers after losing their starter to a knee injury. That led to a number of negative plays as the ball skipped back to the QB on the ground.
Ly’Terrence Mills, one of seemingly a hundred kids with the last name Mills on the Chester roster, had a big game on the defensive side of the ball for the Cyclones. He had an interception, fumble recovery and it looked like he blocked a field goal near the end of the half, though Lancaster’s kicker may have hit the football off the backside of one of the Bruin blockers.
Emmanuel Wright had another big outing for the Cyclones, providing a couple of explosive plays. The first was a 23-yard touchdown that opened the scoring, the second a blocked punt that set up a Stan Mills’ 1-yard TD run to make it 35-7. Chester’s offensive line won the fight up front, piling up 270 yards on the ground, while the Cyclone defensive front held Lancaster to its lowest team rushing total of the season.
Lancaster opens Region 3-4A play at home against Richland Northeast on Sept. 21, while Chester plays one more non-region game, at home against Carolina Pride.
Lancaster;7;0;0;13 - 20
Chester;7;20;8;6 - 41
CHS - Emmanuel Wright 23 run (Corey Wade kick), 7:12
LHS - Nygel Moore 45 pass from Kemarkio Cloud (Jacob Cato kick), 4:11
CHS - Zan Dunham 3 run (Wade kick), 10:49
CHS - Ly’Terrence Mills 33 interception return (Wade kick), 9:54
CHS - Pha’Leak Brown 10 run (kick failed), 2:25
CHS - Stan Mills 1 run (Dorrien Bagley 2-point pass to Terrence Mills), 9:02
LHS - Cloud 4 run (kick failed), 10:02
LHS - Cloud 2 run (Cato kick), 1:28
CHS - Zion Mills 60 kickoff return (kick failed), 1:17
RUSHING Lancaster: Nygel Moore 5-3, Kemarkio Cloud 20-85, Wyquan Massey 3-10, Nehemiah Bailey 1-11, Asont’a Clark 9-47. Chester: Pha’Leak Brown 13-84, Emmanuel Wright 9-55, Stan Mills 11-60, Zan Dunham 16-71.
PASSING Lancaster: Cloud 10-20-1, 136 yards. Chester: Dunham 2-3-0, 12 yards.
RECEIVING Lancaster: Christian Woodard 4-30, Phillip Mickles 2-11, Nehemiah Bailey 1-4, Moore 2-52. Chester: Ja’Rel Hill 1-5, Stan Mills 1-7.
RECORDS Lancaster 4-1; Chester 5-0.