Just over five minutes left in the second quarter, the Chester High School football team pressed in its proverbial dagger.
The Cyclones were up 14-0, and were 34 yards from the goal line. Sophomore quarterback Zan Dunham, after two drives capped off by rushing touchdowns, stood in the shotgun in an empty backfield. It was fourth and seven — Aiken one stop away from getting the ball back and working to pull the score to one possession.
And then, the dagger came.
Dunham took the snap, rolled to his left and lofted a pass that found the hands of running back/wide receiver Jarel Hill, who was streaking down the visitor’s sideline. Hill found the end zone. 21-0, Chester.
The touchdown was one of three scores for Hill — a 5-foot-6, 166-pound senior — and it was six of the Cyclones’s 52 points en route to their 52-6 win on Thursday night.
Chester’s season-opening win extended its winning streak to 16 — a streak that reaches back to the start of the 2018 season, when the Cyclones went undefeated and won the 3A state championship.
Chester’s offense was first powered by a two-speared rushing attack in Hill and senior Stan Mills.
Hill began the scoring spree. He capped off a 34-yard first quarter drive with a one-yard touchdown rush to break the scoring ice. 7-0.
A few possessions later, Mills punched in a 22-yard score after taking a hand-off from the shotgun.
Chester entered the break up 35-6. Aiken’s lone score came from a 94-yard kick return from senior Chavous Jones late in the first half.
The second half largely proved to be an extension of the first. The senior tandem in the backfield for Chester played a part in five of the Cyclones’s seven touchdowns. Hill notched 38 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries; Mills notched 167 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 10 rushes.
They stopped taking carries with just over six minutes left in the third quarter.
Head coach Victor Floyd said he is expecting both running backs to fill large roles in this year’s offense.
“Stan (Mills) had a big year for us last year,” Floyd said. “We expect him to continue. Jarel didn’t touch it as much last year. We’re expecting a big year from him, and he produced tonight.”
‘A lot of stuff to clean up’
Proficiency on the ground opened up a few opportunities through the air for Chester. Dunham ended his sophomore debut 7-for-14 for 126 yards and two touchdowns passing. He also added 76 yards on the ground.
The team’s leading receiver was Johnathan Goldsborough, who had two receptions for 63 yards. Hill also added one catch for 31 yards and a touchdown.
Senior kicker Steven McGarrity converted a 41-yard field goal late in the third quarter.
Chester’s defense didn’t allow a score on Thursday night and wore down Aiken’s offensive line. The unit had five total sacks on Thursday night.
Senior Chris Dove added 9 tackles and one tackle for loss. Senior Teddy Murphy added four tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss.
Still, immediately after the lopsided victory, Floyd volunteered several areas his team will need to improve in.
“We won — that’s the only happy thing,” Floyd said. “Just too many mistakes. Typical first game, just a lot of stuff to clean up ... I mean, we had 200 yards in penalties. We got a lot of work to do.”
Chester will welcome Class AAAAA opponent Fort Mill to its stadium on Friday, Aug. 30, at 7:30 p.m.