Chester hosted former River-to-River Mississippi Division rival Du Quoin in the season opener Friday, and on a hot, humid night at W.O. Smith Field the Yellow Jackets missed several opportunities to control the game and lost 18-7.
"Overall we played well tonight. I saw lots of good things," said Chester Head Coach Billy Belton. "We just couldn't put enough good plays together in a row. Really, two big Du Quoin plays killed us. Overall our defense played great."
Chester looked ready to put points on the board early when on the opening kickoff Isaac Jany took the ball to the 35-yard line. But Du Quoin's defense held fast.
The Jackets got the ball back on downs with 3:42 to play in the first quarter. Ethan Stumpe and Jordan Merideth achieved a pair of first downs, Freddie Alvarez ran for another first and ten and the Jackets were first and goal at 1:49 mark.
A broken pass play to Cooper Eggemeyer and a failed pass to Dylan Kelkhoff put the Jackets at third and goal with 1:39 left. Another failed offensive play forced Coach Billy Belton to bring in Jared Landeros to attempt a field goal with 1:31 on the clock. Landeros missed what is usually a gimme kick and the score was 0-0 after one quarter.
In the second quarter Du Quoin quarterback David Lee got his passes working, hitting Jaelyn Smith and Gage Green for a first down.
On the next play, the Jacket defense forced an Indian fumble and Korbin Jany recovered the ball. But Chester had the ball just eight seconds when an Ethan Stumpe pass was intercepted by Du Quoin's Hunter Douglas. It took the Indians just two minutes and five plays to score the first points of the game on a David Lee 60-yard touchdown pass to Jaelyn Smith. Chester's defense, however, broke up a two-point conversion pass.
On the ensuing kickoff, Jordan Merideth had a fantastic run back to the Du Quoin 38-yard line. A Du Quoin encroachment penalty then gave the Jackets another first down, but a false start penalty by Chester gave it back.
Ethan Stumpe threw what could have been a huge touchdown pass to his favorite target, Cooper Eggemeyer. Eggemeyer was all alone except for two quick DuQuoin defenders, senior D-backs Nishan Woody and Braden Harsy, who came out of nowhere to break up the otherwise great pass play. CHS turned the ball over on downs.
When play resumed, DQ's David Lee completed a pass to Jaelyn Smith and then to Caden Hutchins for a first down. On the next play, Chester's Isaac Jany sacked Lee.
At 4:24, Chester forced a Lee fumble, but the Jackets were called for a personal foul and given a 15-yard penalty. On the next play, Du Quoin was called for holding.
Chester's defense then held the Indians for three consecutive plays. But with 3:55 left in the half and facing fourth down, Lee threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to expand the Indians lead to 12-0. Chester once again held off a two-point conversion attempt.
On the kickoff Du Quoin tried an onside kick. Chester recovered and started its offensive effort on the Du Quoin 48 yard line. But it proved to be another opportunity squandered as Du Quoin forced Chester to punt. The next series ended with Indians also punting -- which was blocked by the Jackets.
But Jackets couldn't sustain the momentum. Ethan Stumpe was sacked on the first play. Stumpe's pass to Cooper Eggemeyer was foiled. With .58 seconds left. Stumpe attempted a long pass which was intercepted. The turnover gave the ball back to Du Quoin to end the half.
The second half was a defensive battle until the 6:07 mark, when DuQuoin scored on a 15 yard run. The Yellow Jacket defense once again stalled the two-point conversion and the score was 18-0 when the third quarter ended.
The Chester offense came alive in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, scoring a TD on a three-yard run. Jared Landeros' extra point kick was good and suddenly the Jackets trailed by only 11 points, 18-7.
That's how the game would end, however, as Chester had opportunities but could not score again.
In the loss, Chester ran 52 plays to Du Quoin's 76 plays. The Indians accumulated 419 yards to Chester's 223 yards. DuQuoin had 216 passing yards and 203 rushing yards. Chester had 94 passing yards and 129 rushing yards.
Chester was 0-7 on third down efficiency vs DuQuoin's 6-14 (43%). CHS committed four costly turnovers. DQ had just one turnover. Each team lost the ball once by fumble. Chester's Ethan Stumpe threw three interceptions, Du Quoin's David Lee had none.
Chester's Freddie Alvarez led the Yellow Jackets in rushing with 58 yards, followed by Jordan Merideth (55), Aiden Jany (15), Dylan Kelkhoff (13) and Ethan Stumpe (10). DuQuoin was led by David Lee with 38 yards.
Jordan Merideth led Chester with five receptions for 59 yards, followed by Isaac Jany with one reception (33 yards) and Aidan Kennon who had one reception for two yards.
Chester's defense was led by Jordan Merideth with nine solo tackles and three assists. Jacob Cowell had seven solo tackles and 12 assists. Isaac Jany had five solo tackles and two assists while other Jackets with solo tackles were Shane Bicket (4), Aiden Jany (3), Jerald Copple II (2), Jared Landeros (1) and Cooper Eggemeyer (1).
Du Quoin's Ethan Hill led the Indians defense with seven solo tackles and one assist. Elijah Jones had four solos and one assist.
Belton said the Jackets made too many mistakes and had too many turnovers.
"You can't do that and win games," he said. "We have a good team and will recover and win games. These boys are tough and resilient!"
• Next up for CHS: A rare Saturday evening game, at 6 p.m. Sept. 4 at Tri-County & Shiloh Oakland (nonconference).