Chester completed a perfect 2018 high school football season a Friday night at Williams-Brice Stadium, besting Dillon 34-28.
The 15-0 Cyclones jumped out to a 21-6 lead and never looked back. Dillon came back from a 21-point deficit to win the 2017 state title, but couldn’t overcome turnovers this time.
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Chester lost its two previous state championship appearances, 14-12 to Wilson in 2007 and 31-21 to Myrtle Beach in 2008. Dillon was playing in its seventh straight state title game, having won five of the previous six.
Follow The Herald’s live, in-game updates below (once the game kicks off):
Surprise! Chester got a nice kickoff return from Emmanuel Wright, before senior running back Pha’Leak Brown took a handoff left side for a 49-yard touchdown run on the game’s first play from scrimmage, only the second rushing touchdown allowed by Dillon in 13 games this season. The Cyclones led 7-0, then got the ball back after a promising Dillon drive petered out. A shotgun snap on third down went thru the hands of Dillon QB Jay Lester and a group of Cyclones buried him for a big loss, forcing a punt.
Dillon got the ball back and drove into Chester’s red zone. On fourth and goal at the Cyclones’ 7-yard line, Lester forced a pass into a busy area and Stan Mills picked off the pass, racing 96 yards the other way to give Chester a 13-0 lead (the PAT missed) with less than 4 minutes remaining in the first quarter.
The two sides exchanged three-and out punts and the Cyclones headed to the second quarter with a two-score lead. Dillon ran 21 offensive plays in the first quarter, to Chester’s seven.
Another strong offensive possession by Dillon, but this one ends in the end zone. Freshman running back Nemo Squire punched in from a couple yards out, but Dillon’s 2-point run (they don’t really have a kicker), was stuffed short, leaving Chester in front 13-6 with 11:04 left in the half.
Chester’s ensuing drive stiff-armed the surging Wildcats. Zan Dunham made a nice third down pass for a first, a 15-yard Dillon penalty moved the Cyclones down the field, before Brown converted a fourth down run. It was Brown that punctuated the possession, weaving into the end zone for a 5-yard TD. Dunham then lobbed to Ja’Rel Hill in the right corner for the 2-point conversion and a 21-6 lead with about 5 minutes left in the half.
Chester got the ball right back after forcing a three-and out and punt, but Dillon’s Jerdarius McDaniel clipped Dunham’s ankle as the Chester QB was running for a first down. The Cyclones punted, but they held their 21-6 lead into halftime.
Dillon fumbled the opening kickoff the second half and Chester’s Jagen Hinton pounced on the loose ball to give the Cyclones possession near midfield. The Cyclones took advantage, Dunham tossing a 20-yard scoring pass to Dorrien Bagley in the right front corner of the end zone for a 28-6 lead with 7:44 left.
The Wildcats snapped into life with a defensive touchdown, Jerdarius McDaniel scooping up a fumble for a 40-yard touchdown return to make it 28-12. Chester stuffed Dillon’s 2-point run with 4:49 left in the third quarter.
Chester didn’t hesitate in putting another touchdown on the board. In less than 2 minutes, Dunham hit Terrence Mills for a 52-yard gain, and Brown was in the end zone for his third score of the night to push the lead to 34-12. Dillon again cut the lead to two scores when Justin Green got behind the Chester defense for a 62-yard touchdown to make it 34-20.
The two teams exchanged turnovers with Chester still in front 34-20 with about six minutes left. Then the Cyclones ended another good-looking Dillon offensive drive with an interception, Jovonti Jackson snagging the pick after Lester was pressured heavily.
But chester stalled offensively and Dillon cut the lead to 34-28 on its next possession. Lester threw a nine-yard TD pass to set up a nervy final 2 minutes.
Dillon;0;6;14;8 – 28
Chester;13;8;13;0 – 34
CHS — Pha’Leak Brown 49 run (Henry Glenn kick), 11:46
CHS — Stan Mills 96 interception return (kick failed), 3:46
DHS — Nemo Squire 2 run (2-point run failed), 11:04
CHS — Brown 5 run (Dunham pass to Ja’Rel Hill), 5:26
CHS — Dorrien Bagley 20 pass from Dunham (Glenn kick), 7:44
DHS — Jerdarius McDaniel 40 fumble return (2-point run failed), 4:49
CHS — Brown 1 run (kick failed), 3:01
DHS — Justin Green 62 pass from Jay Lester (Corrian Wright run), 1:11
DHS — Ahmari Huggins-Bruce 9 pass from Lester (2-point run), 1:59