High School Football

Ahead of Chester-Lancaster rivalry, football coaches focus on improvement

Looking at it on paper, ahead of the rivalry football game at Lancaster on Friday night, Chester has the edge.

But, as both coaches will tell you — games aren’t played on paper.

The contest between the Cyclones and Bruins could be characterized as a battle between two teams heading in different directions: Chester sits at 3-1 on the season, while Lancaster is at 1-3. The Cyclones are defending state 3A champs, while Lancaster is rebuilding and struggling with a small roster of just three dozen players.

But there’s more to it than that. Lancaster has proven to be able to play up to its competition — just ask Nation Ford, which was upset last week in what was the Bruins’ only win of their season thus far. Lancaster also gave an improved Fort Mill team fits before falling earlier in the season, 24-14.

Head coach in Marcus Surratt, who is in his first year at the helm, is still trying to install his way of doing things at Lancaster this season with both the offense and defense.

“We are getting better every week and that is what we preach,” Surratt told The Herald at a practice this week. “Guys are getting smarter and getting faster and learning our scheme.”

Surratt said he sees improvements, but his team isn’t quite where he wants it to be. If there has been one Achilles’ heel for Lancaster, it has been the lack of extra bodies on the roster to fill in when injuries happen.

“We are always trying to get better,” Surratt said. “There are a few things we have to get some wrinkles out of. We have to fill some voids because the depth isn’t where I want it to be right now. Injuries are going to happen; you just have to fight through them and battle through them and get ready to go.”

Chester head coach Victor Floyd said his team is certainly not taking Lancaster for granted because of its slow start to the season.

“Lancaster is coming off a big win, and our kids are well aware of that,” Floyd said. “It is a big cross-county rivalry. It is a big game for us. Our guys are preparing as we need too.”

Chester is coming off a quality win as well against a 5A team from Decatur, Ga., but the team has experienced some adversity this season as well. The Cyclones’ blowout loss to Rock Hill in their third game of the season snapped a 17-game winning streak dating back to 2017.

“I thought we bounced back,” Floyd said.

Chester is averaging 34 points a game this season in its first four games despite having the one loss. Last year, the team averaged the exact same amount through its first four games.

All this said, Chester’s defense is allowing just 14 points a game — in comparison to Lancaster’s 20 — and Floyd conveyed that his defense is leading his team.

“We knew this year would be different than last year,” Floyd said. “Each team has their own identity, and we are going to be a defensive first unit and we will go as the defense goes.”

Mac Banks: mbanks@comporium.net, @MacBanksFM