On a night packed with Homecoming festivities at Indian Land, the Warriors and the visiting Chester Cyclones decided to put on a show of their own.
The series of classics between Chester and Indian Land added another chapter Friday, with the Cyclones staving off a frenetic comeback attempt from the homestanding Warriors to escape with a 51-50 victory at The Reservation.
“It (was) the usual Chester-Indian Land game,” said a clearly exhausted Chester head coach Victor Floyd after the game. “Two years ago, here, we won, 36-35, on the last play.”
Again, on Friday, it came down to the last play.
A back and forth first half
Chester (6-1, 1-0 Region 4-3A) immediately struck first, as Jordan Coleman took back the opening kickoff 78 yards to the endzone to give his side an 8-0 advantage. Indian Land (2-5, 0-1) took just 1:22 to respond, with Deaviaun Qwiy hauling in a 61-yard strike from Blake Goode to narrow the Cyclone lead to 8-7. The Cyclones returned the ensuing kickoff for another score, but a flag brought back the play, and the Chester drive ended in a punt.
Chester then extended its lead to 17-7, by virtue of a safety on a snap through the end zone and Zan Dunham scoring from 50 on the lone play of the ensuing drive. Dunham followed a Hunter Moran field goal for Indian Land by going a yard to cap another Chester drive, putting his team ahead 23-10.
The game nearly changed as the half approached, as Qwiy hauled in a Chester punt and darted up the left sideline for what appeared to be a touchdown. The officials ruled he was knocked out of bounds at the six, however, and following a Chester stop on a short drive, Moran cut Chester’s halftime lead to 30-20 with a 28-yarder.
“It (the stop) was huge. I thought, from where I was standing, he was in-bounds for the touchdown, but the officials, it’s their call to make,” said Indian Land coach H.B. Blades. “You always want to beat a defending state champion, and you need sevens, not threes (to beat them). Whenever you get an opportunity to get seven, you want to get the seven.”
The last play
Sudden changes are often so pivotal in high school football, and Chester got one on the first possession of the second half. Chester’s Khamani Tobias hauled in an interception, setting up the Cyclones near the Indian Land 35-yard line. Dunham then took the next play 36 yards up the middle, extending Chester’s lead to 37-20. The teams continued to trade punches, with a 30-yard pass from Stan Mills to Ja’Rel Hill giving Chester a 51-33 lead with 11:47 remaining.
Then, the impossible nearly happened.
Indian Land got a 25-yard strike to Jacob Cooley to cut the lead to 51-41 with 3:15 remaining. A Moran field goal from 27 with 1:04 to play knifed the margin to seven. A recovered onside kick then set up Indian Land at the Chester 30, and with 1:04 to play, the Warriors gradually worked their way inside the 5. Goode then found Miegwel Lewis for a touchdown to nearly complete the comeback, though an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty forced the extra point try from 15 yards further away.
Chester swatted away the kick — and with it, the incredible comeback effort by the Warriors.
Dunham paced Chester’s punishing ground game, carrying 10 times for 127 yards and three scores. Ly’Terrence Mills added 90 and a score, with Stan Mills rushing for 57 and a touchdown.
Goode connected on 29-of-46 throws for Indian Land, throwing for 560 yards and six scores, with Qwiy snagging 10 of those throws for 240 yards and four touchdowns. Cooley caught 10 for 164, with Lewis adding six for 126.
“(He had) awesome poise,” said Blades of his sophomore quarterback. “He was in the concussion protocol for the past three weeks, and then came out here tonight and lit it up. He did an awesome job. You can’t say enough good things about what he did tonight.”
Chester returns home next week to face Keenan in a Region 4-3A contest. Indian Land will be off next week, before traveling to Keenan to continue 4-3A play on Friday, October 18.