Prep football: CHS falls to Vandalia in first round of playoffs

The Chester High School YellowJacket football team has ended a wonderful 2021 season in which they boasted an undefeated 4-0 inaugural season in the Cahokia Conference, winning the Conference Championship, and finished the regular season with an overall 7-2 record.

The Jackets' only two regular season losses came to perennial powerhouse DuQuoin, by just one point, 8-7, in the opening game of the season, and to the No. 1 ranked team in Class 2A, Decatur St. Teresa, Oct. 8 in a hard-fought game, 54-14.

That loss was the result of a conference game against Dupo that was canceled due to COVID concerns. Rather than take a forfeit win and be idle that weekend, CHS elected to play the top team in 2A.

<b>Vandalia 24, Chester 0 in Class 2A Playoffs</b>

The Jackets made the two-hour bus trip to Vandalia early Saturday morning, and a good Chester fan base followed the team to Vandalia to fill the visitor stands.

The YellowJackets came into game without two key senior defensive players. Starting quarterback Ethan Stumpe was playing on a sore ankle from an injury received during the Decatur St. Teresa game Oct. 8.

Chester received the opening kickoff and were stopped on their first possession and turned the ball over on downs. On Vandalia's first play from scrimmage, Carson Ruot connected for a 46 yard touchdown pass. Chester blocked the extra point kick. The Vandals led, 6-0 after two minutes of play. That sort of set the tone for the day.

On Chester's next possession, Vandalia's Conner Ray intercepted an Stumpe pass at the 7:45 mark and the Vandals had possession once again. On the firth play from scrimmage, Chester intercepted a Carson Ruot pass and the Jackets had the ball again.

With 2:12 to play in the first quarter, Stumpe reinjured his already sore foot and had to come out of the game. Dylan Kelkhoff took over at the quarterback position.

Vandalia held Chester to four-and-out, forcing a YellowJacket punt. The punt was tipped and landed on the 50 yard line, giving the Vandals excellent field position. The Jacket defense went to work and held Vandalia to four attempts. The Vandals turned the ball over on downs with just 35 seconds left to end the first quarter with Vandalia leading, 6-0.

CHS started the second period with the ball but failed to create any offense and had to punt. Chester's defense held the Vandals to four plays forcing them to punt at the 9:45 mark.

On Chester's next possession the Jackets had the ball for five minutes under the direction of backup quarterback, Kelkhoff. Kelkhoff got two first-and-tens on 10 plays before being intercepted at the 4:50 mark at the 1-yard line, ruining Chester's opportunity to take the lead with a touchdown and extra point.

CHS held Vandalia on their next possession and the Jackets turned the ball over on downs on their next possession. With just 1:55 remaining in the first half, it was still a close hard-fought defensive game with neither team refusing to back down.

On the Vandals third play from scrimmage, Ruot connected with Ray for a 23-yard pass for second Vandalia score. The extra point kick failed and Vandalia led, 13-0 with 1:34 to play in the first half.

The YellowJackets were unable to get their passing game going during the next minute and turned the ball over on downs with 1:02 left in the half. CHS held Vandalia the final 56-seconds and the half ended with Vandalia leading, 13-0. It was still a game.

Chester kicked an onside kick to Vandalia to start the second half. That play failed as Vandalia fell on the ball at the 46 yard line giving them excellent field position. The Jackets held them, however, forcing them to punt at the 10:30 mark.

Chester likewise had to punt on their next possession and then Vandalia was held by CHS on their next possession and Chester took over at the 6:32 mark.

Chester ran just one play with Kelkhoff gaining six yards. Facing 2-4 and having some momentum, Chester fumbled the ball and lost possession. On Vandalia's third play from scrimmage, Vandalia's Ray caught a 52-yard touchdown pass for a score. The vandals went for a two-point conversion and scored to lead, 21-0 at the 4:30 mark of the third quarter.

Chester as unable to even get a first and ten and had to punt at 3:07. Vandalia likewise had difficulty moving the ball against a tough Chester defense, but did manage to score on a field goal with just 7 seconds remaining in the third period. Vandalia led, 24-0 at the buzzer.

The final quarter was a lock and neither team was able to move the ball against equally tough defenses. At the final horn, Vandalia had secured a 24-0 shutout of the YellowJackets, ending Chester's season with a 7-3 record.

"We just came with zero energy today," said Coach Billy Belton said after the game. "Jordan Merideth came with a sore knee, Ethan Stumpe had an injured foot, and we were short two key defensive players.

"We just couldn't make the big plays today. It was not our best team. We did not have a good week of practice.

"Our defense played hard the entire four quarters and the entire team never gave up. I am proud of them, especially our seniors. I am very proud of our team. They had a great year, beating a 4A team and a 5A team, and winning the Cahokia Conference with an undefeated 4-0 record. Our seniors had records of 7-3 their sophomore season, 5-1 last year in the COVID season and this year at 7-3. I am happy for them!"

<b>Chester 31, Mount Vernon 15</b>

Chester finished out the regular season Oct. 22 with a Senior Night win over Mount Vernon, 31-15.

Both teams had two players ejected from the game after an altercation in the second quarter led to a wild scrum. As the final buzzer sounded, Chester led, 31-15, to improve to 7-2.

In the win, the Jackets recorded 260 total yards compared to Mt. Vernon's 177. The Rams outran the Jackets 137-134 on the ground, but Chester outpassed Mt. Vernon 126-40 in the air.

Each team recorded 12 first downs and Chester turned the ball over four times, compared to Mt. Vernon's three turnovers. CHS fumbled once and was intercepted three times. The Rams fumbled three times.

Chester was called for eight penalties for a total of 62 yards lost while Mt. Vernon was penalized 12 times for a total of 77 yards lost.

Stumpe completed 5 of 15 passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns and three interceptions for Chester. Caden Plummer completed 5 of 12 passes for 40 yards.

Chester's Jordan Merideth led the YellowJackets with 15 runs for 84 yards and one touchdown. Freddie Alvarez ran eight times for 29 yards. Mt. Vernon was led by Marcus Garrett, who ran seven times for 83 yards and one touchdown. Caden Plummer ran 18 times for 35 yards and one touchdown.

Cooper Eggemeyer had two receptions for 57 yards and one touchdown, and Freddie Alvarez had one reception for 28 yards and one touchdown.

Isaac Jany led the Jackets on defense with eight solo tackles, four assists, one sack, and three tackles for a loss. Aiden Jany followed with four solo tackles, three assists, one sack and one tackle for a loss.

In the win, Jared Landeros was 4-for-4 in kicking extra points and he also kicked a field goal for three points.

"I am very proud of the seniors and how they played tonight," Coach Belton said. "They are winners and have worked hard for the successes they have earned this season."