Last year the Chester Cyclone football team placed its offensive success on the shoulders of talented quarterback Tommy Sanders. The numbers back that up as Sanders, a 2014 Touchstone Energy Cooperatives Bowl selection and Newberry College signee, threw for 1,426 yards and rushed for 556 yards for a total output of 1,982 yards.
That accounted for 68 percent of the Cyclones’ 2,904 offensive yards.
Junior signal caller Malik Williams is confident that he will not have to assume that heavy a burden as he takes over the reins of the Chester offense this fall.
“I am confident in my receivers, running backs, and the offensive line,” said Williams, who stands 5-foot-11, 170 pounds. “I am confident in the offensive line getting the right blocks, the receivers catching the ball, and the running backs following the blocks.”
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Asked if he felt added pressure in succeeding Sanders, the soft spoken Williams hesitated briefly before replying, “Just a little right now but I can handle it.”
Williams goes right into the fire. The Cyclones face Fairfield Central, Rock Hill and York on the road in consecutive weeks, before embarking on a Region 3-3A schedule that includes defending state champs South Pointe, Broome, Union County and Lancaster. Victor Floyd, in the first year of his second stint as Chester head coach - after coaching the Cyclones from 2004 to 2007 - has no qualms about turning the offense over to Williams.
“In any spread offense the quarterback is the guy and our offense is no different,” stated Floyd. “Malik will be an integral part. He is a dual threat that can run or pass.”
(Malik) is way ahead of the learning curve for a guy that didn’t play last year.
Chester coach Victor Floyd
Talking to a reporter last week, Floyd showed film highlights of the previous day’s scrimmage against McBee and Keenan where Williams displayed his accurate passing technique and an ability to avoid a pass rush and scramble for sizable chunks of yardage.
Williams, an All-Area hooper who teamed with Sanders in the Cycs’ backcourt last winter, feels that this year’s squad will be much more team-oriented with the offensive focus not solely on one player.
“We can be a winning team if we play together and stay disciplined,” said Williams, who is basing his athletic future - football or basketball - on “whichever school makes me an offer.” Floyd added that Williams has been contacted by Duke and Wake Forest.
Williams needs a go-to passing target to emerge, but there are plenty of options on the flanks. Likewise in the backfield, which includes Quay Strong.
“I will do anything to help the team win,” said the multipurpose Brown, who also lines up at safety on defense. “I will play my heart out and give my best for the coaches and the team. We lacked discipline last year and there was a lot of finger-pointing, but our new coaches are holding us accountable and keeping us on the right path. Coach (Floyd) puts fear in us.”
Strong will be joined in the backfield by senior Javarius Gregory (5-foot-9, 225 pounds), senior Jaylyn Reid (5-foot-11, 215 pounds), and freshman Pha’leak Brown (5-foot-10, 170 pounds). The latter is “young but real solid,” according to Floyd.
And although it would appear that Williams will not be under the pressure that Sanders faced last season, his talents will be exhibited in abundance on the upcoming Friday nights as the Cyclones hope to improve on last season’s 2-8 record. Floyd is confident in his quarterback at all levels.
“Malik is a quality young man in every respect,” he said. “He has a 3.5 GPA and he is a very good athlete with a bright future. Of all the athletes that I have coached, I would put Malik in the top 10 percent. He is extremely humble and that sets him apart from others.”