Head coach Victor Floyd is familiar with Daniel’s football program.
He remembers the 2005 game, when his Chester side lost to Daniel in the first round of the playoffs. He remembers the 2007 game – when Chester welcomed DeAndre “Nuke” Hopkins and the Lions and beat them solidly in the State quarterfinals.
The rest of this year’s Cyclones? They know Daniel well too.
“They beat us pretty well last year,” Floyd told the Herald in practice earlier this week, referring to Daniel’s dominant display of 62-30 in the first round of last year’s playoffs. . “I said to the kids, ‘You don’t have a chance to redo too much.’ So Friday’s opportunity for a pickup – because the majority of their team is back and pretty much all of ours is back – is a chance to turn the boat around. So we’ll see. “
The Cyclones will face Daniel for an Upper State Championship Friday night at Central, about a two-hour drive from Chester High School. The game is the ultimate showdown between two of the state’s top 3A programs over the past five years.
The Lions are the reigning state champions and boast a 22-game winning streak dating back to last season.
And Chester has a chance to advance to his second state championship game in four years on Friday.
The Cyclones have nine seniors on their roster, three of whom contributed to Chester’s 2018 State Championship squad. These guys start quarterback Zan Dunham, starting kicker Henry Glenn and (then tight) starting offensive lineman DaMorrius Thompson.
Thompson said he explained to his teammates what it was like to make a playoff run. He remembers the Upper State title game well, he said.
“We tell them all the time,” he said. “The Upper State game?” Energy for that? It’s a great feeling.
What you need to know about Chester (9-3) against Daniel (12-0)
Chester found ways to win the 2021 playoffs in different ways – through amazing comebacks (against Chapman) and start-to-finish dominance (against Powdersville).
“It shows we haven’t quit,” Dunham said. “It shows that when we’re down we can still play. And when we are up, we can go on.
The Cyclones will need that dynamism against Daniel.
Chester’s offense begins with Dunham, the 6-3, 220-pound quarterback who started his four years under Floyd. It’s no secret that Dunham will throw the ball 20 to 25 times Friday night: This year, the senior has recorded 1,190 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns and added 918 yards and 10 touchdowns on the pitch. (He also gets time as the team’s starting long snapper and as an inside linebacker.)
Dunham is protected by an offensive line with four senior starters and is boosted by a multitude of talent around him. Junior running back Shydem McCullough had 1,001 rushing yards, eight rushing touchdowns and four receiving touchdowns during the year. Junior RB Sherard Feaster (404 yards, three touchdowns), second RB Antonio Hopkins (301 yards, five touchdowns), senior Rathael Pendergrass (186 yards receiving) and junior Andre Evans (173 yards receiving ) were also huge playmakers.
“Everyone understands their role,” said Floyd. “This is how this band is.”
Daniel is impressive through and through.
Daniel quarterback and 2020 SC Gatorade Player of the Year Trent Pearman threw for 3,141 yards and 40 touchdowns this year – most important for junior Eli Merck, who had 63 catches for 916 yards and 15 affected during the season.
The Lions also have a nearly 1,000-yard rusher at Chris Edge junior (929 yards, 14 touchdowns) and an impressive defense led by senior defensive end Jaheim Lawson (who has a host of offers. FBS), senior linebacker Griffin Batt (Clemson commit) and junior cornerback Misun Kelly (another top Division I prospect).
This is Chester’s chance for a “remake”. This is the opportunity for Daniel to continue an unprecedented streak in the state of South Carolina.
Both teams have a championship pedigree to draw on – and that should make Friday night special.
“I see this group as the same group as in 2018,” Dunham said. “Everyone is hungry. Everyone wants to win every Friday. Same as in 2018. “
Zietlow’s prediction: Daniel wins.
This story was originally published November 25, 2021 at 8:00 a.m.