When Chester travels to Carmi-White County tonight, it will be a battle between two teams coming off bad losses, with the Black Diamond Conference title and a playoff berth possibly in the balance.
"Two angry teams are going to meet on the gridiron Friday," said Chester coach Jeremy Blechle. "It should be a cool game to watch because we match up pretty well."
Carmi-White County (4-1, 4-1 BDC) suffered its first loss of the season last week to league leader Fairfield at home, 28-14. The loss dropped the Bulldogs into a tie for second with Johnston City and Eldorado.
"We made some critical mistakes and gave up some big plays and that wound up being the difference in the game," said Carmi-White County coach Kurt Simon. "Fairfield did a nice job defending us and came with a really nice pass rush that disrupted us as far as our passing game goes."
Chester (3-2, 3-2 BDC) lost to Johnston City on the road, 20-2, to snap a three-game winning streak and drop into third place.
"They played a lot harder than we did," Blechle said. "They dominated us in special teams and defense, but offensively we didn't help the cause at all with miscommunication and miscues, like dropping a few long passes, leaving our defense on the field too much. Last week was not a representation of who we are."
Chester has won the last four games, including 43-0 last year, and holds a 5-1 record in the regular season series since joining the conference in 2010. The only time the two have faced each other in the playoffs was in 2013, with Carmi winning 30-25. In fact, Chester has won all three games at Carmi.
"Last year we were really young and weren't very good, but you have to say they've had our number," Simon said.
Against Fairfield, Carmi fumbled the ball three times and was held to just 193 total yards, including 85 yards rushing. Running back Andrew Burnett led the team in rushing with 114 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown, but quarterback Jake Simon was sacked for a negative 33 yards.
The Bulldogs scored first, but the Mules scored on the next series and took a 14-7 lead in the second quarter after Carmi fumbled inside the 40. Fairfield scored first in the third quarter to take a 20-7 lead.
Simon completed 9-of-20 passes for 108 yards and one touchdown pass. Wide receiver Justice Stubblefield caught four passes for 44 yards and wide receiver Justin Lamp had two catches for 44 yards with Burnett with two catches for 17 yards and wide receiver Bryce Northcott one for three yards.
Defensively, the Bulldogs gave up 340 yards rushing, including 131 to Wyatt Borah and 115 to Brant McGill. Defensive end Braxton Williams had 16 tackles.
"Although they had 340 yards on the ground, that was a little deceiving because we missed a couple tackles, allowing some long runs," Simon said. "Fairfield had two good running backs with really good speed that we couldn't catch once they got in the open field. I might say there might be four kids on Chester like that. They can score a touchdown real fast, so making the tackle is going to be critical this week."
In a defensive struggle, Chester slightly out-gained Johnston City, 214 yards to 210, but two fumbles that led to touchdowns and a 64-yard kickoff return to open the game proved to be the Yellow Jackets' undoing.
"We getting into a rut of shooting ourselves in the foot," Blechle said. "We had big plays called back, had big time penalties and too many turnovers on the quarterback-running back exchange. In the fourth quarter down by seven points we drove down the five-yard line, but they kept us out of the end zone. We then got the safety and thought we were exactly where we want to be, but then we fumble."
Jake Golding and Chris Lang led the Jackets in rushing with 55 and 52 yards, respectively. Nick Meyer completed 3-of-11 passes for 75 yards and rushed for 35. Split end Savion Smith caught two passes for 46 yards and wingback Demontae Martin one for 29.
"Our defense has been stellar all season," Blechle said. "With a couple long kick returns putting their backs against the wall the last two games maybe seven points were earned."