Following a hectic, 51-50 victory at Indian Land to open region play last week, Chester coach Victor Floyd had one key word for this week: focus.
For at least 24 minutes Friday night, that’s what he got from his team.
Chester bounced back in the second half, scoring 24 unanswered points to put away a persistent Keenan team, 31-6.
“Hopefully, we can carry this over into next week,” said Floyd. “This week, we both (offense and defense) played (well) down the stretch, so hopefully we can carry that over into next week.”
Both sides endured a sluggish first half. Chester (7-1, 2-0 Region 4-3A) punted on its first drive, halting an 11-play series that lasted nearly five minutes. Following a forced fumble recovered by Octavion Minter, the Cyclones quickly capped off a five-play, 39-yard drive with a 15-yard Stan Mills touchdown scamper. Steven McGarity’s extra point gave the Cyclones a 7-0 lead with 2:02 remaining in the first quarter.
Keenan (3-5, 0-2) clamped down on defense following the conversion, limiting Chester to two punts, a thwarted fourth-down attempt, and the halftime break on the remaining Cyclone drives. The Chester defense proved equal to the task, stuffing all five first-half Keenan drives with two recovered fumbles, two forced punts, and a Jordan Coleman interception of a long Raider throw down the right sideline.
“In the first half, for every step we took forward, we took three back. We kind of (slowly) started and didn’t get going,” said Floyd. Keenan did a great job tonight, though.”
The Raiders’ best chance to draw level in the opening stanza came midway through the second quarter, as an 11-play drive led the visitors inside the Chester 10-yard line. Anthony Taylor-Spencer snagged the recovery on the second of two forced Raider fumbles, however, as the Cyclones turned away the Raiders at the Cyclone 5.
The first drive of the second half proved fruitful for Keenan. The Raiders took the opening kickoff and marched 80 yards in 11 plays, taking nearly five minutes off the clock. Joshua White found Javion Robinson in the right corner of the end zone from 13 yards away, drawing the Raiders to within a point at 7-6.
Chester seemingly answered just as quickly, though. The Cyclones took eight plays to go 80 yards on their first drive of the closing 24, with a seven-yard Ja’Rel Hill trip to pay dirt putting Chester ahead, 14-6. The Cyclones then cashed in their second drive of the half following a shoestring tackle from Khamani Tobias on a fourth-down play, with Hill catching a 15-yard touchdown toss from Mills to extend the margin to 21-6.
Tobias then intercepted a Keenan pass, setting up Chester to go 62 yards in five plays. Mills took off on a quarterback draw, going 17 yards to the paint and extending the Cyclone lead to 28-6.
“He’s growing up right before our eyes,” said Floyd of Tobias. “He’s a sophomore who got thrown into duty early this year, and he took his lumps. Now, he’s getting better. Week to week, he’s getting better.”
A 28-yard Steven McGarity field goal late in the fourth completed the Chester run, providing the final margin.
White provided much of the offense for Keenan. The Raider quarterback rushed 14 times for 70 yards, while completing five passes, including the touchdown throw to Robinson. Robinson recorded two grabs for 50 yards.
Mills again performed ably under center for Chester in Zan Dunham’s absence. Mills connected on 8-of-15 throws for 106 yards, adding 102 yards on 19 rushes and tallying three total touchdowns. Hill rushed eight times for 22 yards, with two catches for 33 yards and a score.
“I’d have to go back and look, but I think he’s undefeated as a starter at quarterback,” said Floyd of Mills. “He’s been around four years, and he can play just about any skill spot for us. He did a good job for us tonight.”
Keenan hosts Indian Land in Region 4-3A play next Friday. Chester travels to Zemp Stadium to face Camden. Both games are slated for a 7:30 kickoff.