How would Chester football respond in the opening round of the playoffs, after three weeks off?
Three weeks off. Messy field conditions. A different quarterback.
It didn’t take long for all the reasons anyone might have been concerned about how Chester would respond in its first-round playoff matchup to vanish, unlike the fog that lingered over the field Friday night. The Cyclones tallied over 400 yards of total offense and two Mills-to-Mills (Stan to Zion) touchdown strikes, scoring a decisive 47-0 victory over Liberty Friday night.
“It wasn’t that difficult to keep this group focused,” said Chester coach Victor Floyd after the game. “They’ve been locked in all season, and they’ve just continued.”
Chester (11-0) scored on its second possession of the game, getting a three-yard score from Pha’Leak Brown. Two additional scores early in the second quarter extended the Cyclone lead to three touchdowns. The 21-0 advantage held for the Cyclones through the interval.
Even the things that could have gone badly for the home side had a happy ending.
Liberty (5-6) was poised to receive the second-half kickoff, but a slip on the approach by Chester turned into an inadvertent onside kick. Chester recovered the ball at the Liberty 46, then needed just six plays to tally the second of the Mills-to-Mills connections, extending the margin to 28-0.
Emmanuel Wright took in a run from 22 yards, with another Brown score and a five-yard scamper from Ja’Rel Hill providing the final margin.
After a first quarter in which Chester managed just a seven-point lead, the Cyclones took charge early in the next period. Stan Mills faked a handoff on a zone read and ran 39 yards to extend the Chester advantage to two touchdowns. The Cyclone defense forced a fumble on the first play of the ensuing Red Devil possession, which was recovered by Dorrien Bagley.
Chester wasted no time, with Stan Mills hitting Zion Mills for a 32-yard score on the next play. The throw gave the Cycs a 21-0 lead, and helped to put the game out of reach.
“It was a situation where we got a turnover,” said Floyd. “It was early in the game. We knew if we were going to throw at all, it had to be early, because of the ball being so wet. The opportunity was there, and we just took advantage of it.”
Chester’s defense pitched its first shutout of the season in the defeat of the Red Devils. Floyd praised the effort of his defenders in comments to the media after the game.
“That was huge. It came at a perfect time. They’re playing really well. A lot of the guys are running to the ball,” said Floyd. “All of them are playing well, and the defensive staff’s doing a tremendous job preparing them.”
The Cyclone defense held Liberty to just over 60 total yards, including just over 50 yards on 26 carries.
Chester’s dominant run game got another outstanding effort, with two Cyclones breaking the 100-yard mark. Brown ran for 115 yards and two scores, with Stan Mills rushing for 106 yards and a touchdown of his own. Mills also threw for two scores in place of injured quarterback Zan Dunham, connecting with Zion Mills on both. Hill also rushed 10 times for nearly 50 yards, adding a touchdown.
“Stan’s been here for three years, doing the same stuff. He’s had a lot of reps,” said Floyd of Mills. “When opportunity knocks, he’s ready.”
The Chester special teams also had a big night, with long kick returns setting up a number of Cyclone drives in Liberty territory.
“We’ve had a couple of weeks to prepare, and one of our largest focuses was special teams,” said Floyd.
Chester will host Broome in second-round action of the 3A state playoffs. That game will be played next Friday, beginning at 7:30. Liberty’s season concludes with a 5-6 record.
Chester 47, Liberty 0
C – Pha’Leak Brown 3 run (Henry Glenn kick) 5:11
C – Stan Mills 39 run (Glenn kick) 10:29
C – Zion Mills 32 pass from Stan Mills (Glenn kick) 10:12
C – Zion Mills 24 pass from Stan Mills (Glenn kick) 7:29
C – Emmanuel Wright 22 run (kick failed) 3:32
C – Pha’Leak Brown 30 run (kick failed) :44.3
C – Ja’Rel Hill 5 run (Glenn kick) 2:51
RUSHING - Liberty: Clay Lollis 15-22; Shamaine Jamison 1-19; J. T. Howard 2-4; Jaylon Jenkins 3-7; Carter Smith 1-0; Jeremy Cason 1-(-2); Hunter Powell 3-8. Chester: Pha’Leak Brown 9-115; Stan Mills 17-106; Ja’Rel Hill 10-47; Emmanuel Wright 7-50; Miles Erwin 1-2.
PASSING - Liberty: Carter Smith 7-12-0-12 yards. Chester: Stan Mills 6-7-0-83 yards.
RECEIVING - Liberty: J. T. Howard 3-2; Hunter Powell 1-9; Jaitayus Smith 2-(-3); Reece Black 1-1. Chester: Zion Mills 3-58; Erwin 1-19; Hill 1-5; Terrence Mills 1-6.
RECORDS: Liberty 5-6, Chester 11-0.