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Cycs get another shot at Patriots

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By Travis Jenkins

It’s the start of a new season, but it’s also a flashback to 2016.

The Chester Cyclones (8-2 and a number two seed) begin the AAA post-season tonight by playing host to Powdersville (6-4 and a number three seed). This will be only the second meeting between the two programs, but it’s the second in two years. Chester went to Powdersville last year in the second round of the playoffs before losing in a double-overtime shootout. A lot of things are different this year, though.

Powdersville is still capable of putting up a lot of points, having scored 38 or more on five different occasions. The team, which was primarily hubbed around a power running attack offensively last year, has shown more variety this season. Quarterback Keith Becknell isn’t big (5’9, 160 pounds) but is very athletic and has put up huge numbers through the air. He had eight touchdown passes in a blowout win over Berea this year and has totaled more than 2,000 through the air. The team still has a strong running game with E.J. Humphrey (who scored four times against Chester last year) providing some balance to Becknell’s arm.

The Patriots went into the playoffs last year with a record of 9-1, but fell to 6-4 this year primarily because of defensive struggles. The team has given up almost as many points as it has scored this year (and it has scored a lot) and has given up 50 or more three contests. That included last week’s 55-41 loss to Palmetto that dropped Powdersville from a two seed to a three.

Chester was off last week, but the last time the Cyclones were on the field they lost to rival Fairfield Central 34-24, breaking an right-game losing streak. A lot of bad breaks went against Chester in that game. After dropping a pass in the end zone, Fairfield Central still had a fraction of a second left on the clock, which allowed for one more play, which turned into a touchdown. The Cyclones had thrown three interceptions all year but had four against the Griffins and Chester got the wrong end of the whistle time-and-again. The Cyclones drew 20 penalties for more than 180 yards against the Griffins. In spite of all that, it was a one-score game until the final two minutes.

“We just self-destructed,” Chester Coach Victor Floyd said after the game.

Aside from ironing out those mistakes, Chester basically just needs to keep doing what it had been doing prior to that game. The Cyclones enjoyed a big plus in terms of turnover differential and were able to move the ball through the air and on the ground with equal effectiveness. John Erby has thrown for right at 1,500 yards and has added almost 800 yards on the ground. Despite missing a few games, Pha’Leak Brown has almost 1,000 yards rushing and double-digit touchdowns. Stan Mill has also turned into an valuable offensive weapon with more than 700 total yards and double-digit touchdowns. Defensively, Chester has forced turnovers and overcome some slow starts as a number of young players have not only stepped into starting roles, but excelled.

Kick-off at Chester will be at 7:30 tonight.