High School Football

Fans don’t always notice Chester football star. But Oregon and West Virginia have.

The Chester Cyclones bring home first football state championship in decades

The Chester Cyclones defeated the Dillon Wildcats Friday at the S.C. High School Football League's Class 3A state championships at William-Brice Stadium in Columbia.
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The Chester Cyclones defeated the Dillon Wildcats Friday at the S.C. High School Football League's Class 3A state championships at William-Brice Stadium in Columbia.

Quay Evans’ game-changing play against Rock Hill High last fall is quintessential defensive tackle dominance.

Why? Because you don’t even notice him.

The Bearcats had the ball on Chester’s 1-yard line, but after a handoff, Rock Hill’s front line imploded. You can’t see Evans beneath the pile, but he was the one that dynamited the play from beneath. Rock Hill didn’t score. Chester went on to beat the 5A Bearcats, one of the first clear implications that the Cyclones were on their way to a special season -- they went 15-0 and won the 3A state title -- and that big things were on Evans’ horizon.

So it wasn’t surprising to Chester coach Victor Floyd when West Virginia and Oregon offered Evans football scholarships within the last two months.

“It’s just a tribute to the three years he’s put in,” said Floyd. “He’s busted his butt and kind of developed at that pace that you want your athletes to develop. Still work to be done, but it’s a good thing at this point.”

West Virginia defensive coordinator Vic Koenning offered Evans, a junior, a scholarship in January, and Evans visited the school two weeks ago. The Mountaineers also offered Chester’s freshman QB, Zan Dunham, though he’s not taking visits yet.

Oregon offered Evans last week, in part because former recruiting analyst Ryan Bartow is now working with the Ducks as director of high school relations. Bartow and Floyd have known each other since Floyd was first at Chester over 10 years ago.

“I thought it was just gonna be a regular phone call with a college coach,” Evans said about the Oregon offer. “Then he just hit me with it, ‘you got an offer.’ I was just shocked. This is my childhood team.”

Ever since he was a little kid, Evans loved the Ducks. He loved their speedy players, like running back LaMichael James, and he loved the different uniform combinations they wore every game.

“That they would offer me a full scholarship? Never thought it would happen,” said Evans.

His own family members didn’t fully believe him.

“Oregon?” they asked, eyebrows cocked.

“Oregon, yeah, other side of the country, that Oregon,” Evans told them.

Floyd said that Evans is planning on an official visit to Oregon’s campus this summer.

“Hopefully I can get out there on a visit to a camp,” said Evans, “see what the environment is and go from there.”

The Ducks unsuccessfully tried to jump in on former Chester offensive lineman Wyatt Tunall’s recruitment late in the game after Tunall opted not to go to Appalachian State back in December. The distance from Chester to Oregon meant that Tunall never seriously considered the Ducks. But they could have a much better shot at Evans thanks to a much earlier head start.

“If you can get a kid on campus, they’ve got a chance,” said Floyd.

Evans’ dominance flashed throughout the season, but especially in the last game of the season, the 3A title game against Dillon.

The stats weren’t amazing; he had four quarterback pressures and a tackle-for-loss. But his consumption of two Dillon blockers on most plays allowed defensive end Teddy Murphy to record six QB pressures, three sacks and three tackles-for-loss, including the game-clinching sack. Chester linebacker Javonti Jackson intercepted two passes during the game, both of which came from a Dillon QB scrambling away from chasing Cyclone defensive linemen.

“They’ve got to double him, the center was not gonna be able to handle him by himself,” said Floyd. “I thought he came up big, especially early in the game. We made a lot of stops and he had a lot to do with it, even though he didn’t make a ton of tackles. Guys like Teddy benefit.”

Evans finished the season with 31 QB pressures, second only to Murphy’s 32. Evans had seven tackles-for-loss and two sacks, and forced a team-high five fumbles. Chester returns almost all of its front seven on defense in 2019, including Evans and Murphy, who is a Division I talent.

“Ever since we were on JV we just kind of clicked,” Evans said. “We always compete with each other. We never let one outdo the other.”

Evans was measured and weighed at West Virginia, checking in at 6-foot-2, 277 pounds. Floyd said he’ll be a 300-pounder by college.

Right now, Evans’ lower body is stronger than his upper half, but he’s working on evening those out. Chester’s coach said that Evans’ hip explosion -- which helps him accelerates out of a stance -- and hand power -- jamming his palms into the offensive lineman to knock him loose from his position, while also fighting off the blocker’s hands -- are the two main things that jump out from his game film the last few years. Plus, he has a good motor, a critical attribute down in the trenches.

Evans didn’t start his junior year chasing offers. But he’ll likely end the school year with a pile of them.

“I just do the best for my team and play the hardest I can pay. Hard work pays off. Reaping the benefits of those long hot summers, cold winter days,” he said.

There is a precedent for Cyclone success in the Northwest. After two years at Fresno City College in California, former Chester star Maurice Morris played at Oregon for two years, helping the Ducks to the 2002 Fiesta Bowl championship and a No. 2 national ranking. Morris was drafted in 2002 and played 10 years in the NFL.

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