The Chester Yellow Jackets enter their second season in the closed conference ten team Black Diamond Conference. Coach Bryan Lee looks to follow up the strong 8-1 first regular season in the BDC after switching conferences with the Carterville Lions as the Lions went to the SIRR-Mississippi. The Yellow Jackets lone conference loss came at the hands of the Johnston City Indians and the Jackets were not able to win the first round Class 1A IHSA playoff game they hosted against the Calhoun Warriors. Last years' enrollment saw a good drop to 323 and that is bumped up a bit this year to 337. Chester should return to the playoffs this year, and will do so with at least five wins.
There is more parity this year in the BDC, but most of the usual suspects will be at the top including the Johnston City Indians. Mt. Vernon former coach Dan Mings took the job after the Indians head coach Brian Beery left for West Frankfort. It usually takes a few years for a new coach to get a team where it shows improvement but since Mings inherited a team with a 10-1 record last year they have to get the nod at the top spot and our early coaches poll results show that coaches in the league feel the same way. The Jackets should be able to play with the other teams because of their talent, and all it would take in a few upsets to shake things up in the conference race.
Chester will be young with a small senior class but return several experienced starters and team leaders. These starters have seen success and don't want to hear that they will be fighting for the conference second place. The backfield returns 1,700 yards rushing with Stephen Roth (5'9 190 lb Junior), Clint Cole (6'1 180 lb Senior), and Joel Clendenin. Running backs need experienced blockers and Chester will return three starters on the offensive line. The backfield will feature a new starting Quarterback in Jake Cowan (6'1 165 Junior) and Chester must also find replacements for Wingback John Baughman, Tight End Justin Woodward as well as two offensive lineman. The offense features a Wing T formation.
The Jackets will return five starters on defense, but will miss all-BDC athletes John Baughman and Danny Roth as linebackers. The young defense will focus on speed and pursuit and Head Coach Bryan Lee says that this years' squad might be the fastest defensive unit they have featured in the last few years. The defensive formation is a 5-3 and also a 4-4.
Since moving back home three years ago and taking over for Dennis Roth, Coach Lee has had improving seasons of 5-5, 7-3, and 8-2 towards a 20-10 overall record. In March he was presented with the 2010 SICA (Southern Illinois Coaching Association) Class 1A Coach of the Year award. Even though it has only been three seasons of work Lee has already moved into fifth place on the all-time win list at CHS and three wins in 2011 will move him into fourth place. Coach Lee has a good staff with Jim Howie as Head Assistant and Offensive Coordinator and Jeremy Blechle as Defensive Coordinator. Other assistants include Billy Belton (DB/WR), Dallas Redeker (DB, Head JV Coach), Mike Coffey (LB, FROSH coach), Dan Colvis (D-Line), Dave Holder (O-Line, FROSH), and Dwight Lochhead (Media Specialist).
Was the Conference Swap the Right Move for Chester?
The Black Diamond is a better fit for Chester becomes of declining enrollment as it would easily be the smallest school in the Southern Illinois River to River. SIRR Mississippi teams like Du Quoin, Anna-Jonesboro, and Nashville have rich football histories and have had the advantage on head to head contests dating back to the old SouthWest Egyptian Conference (SWEC). The Black Diamond is no slouch either but the team sizes are more comparable. In Chester's last year playing in the SIRR-Miss the offense averaged 15 points per game in conference tilts towards a 3-2 conference record while in 2010 they scored nearly 40 ppg in nine league contests towards a 8-1 conference record. Look for Coach Lee to continue to move up that all-time win list while playing in the Black Diamond.
|Black Diamond Games of the Week - Week 1|
|Fri 7:00 - Carmi-White Co. @ Eldorado|
|Fri 7:00 - CZR @ Elverado-Trico|
|Fri 7:00 - Fairfield @ Hamilton County|
|Fri 7:00 - SVWW @ Johnston City|
|Fri 7:00 - Vienna-Goreville @ Chester|