YellowJacket Football stumbles at Benton

Benton shuts Chester out, 57-0

By Jim Beers

CHESTER – The Chester High School YellowJackets hit the road to Benton, Illinois last Friday night September 1 for their first away game of the young 2023 season. The Rangers met the Jackets with fierce resistance, shutting out Chester, 57-0 in front of approximately 100 Chester fans.

CHS did not face Benton in 2021, but hosted the Rangers in last year’s second game of the season on Friday September 2, beating the YellowJackets 54-6 on W.O. Smith Field for their second loss of the 2022 season. The week prior on August 26 CHS opened the season at DuQuoin, falling, 26-0.

Sound familiar?  This year’s season starts out the same with Chester playing Freeburg in the third game of the season, this time at home this Friday September 8 at 7:00 p.m. at W.O. Smith Field. Last year’s matchup was a 28-6 loss to the Midgets at Freeburg.

Chester started out the 2022 season with a 0-3 start, then proceeded to win five games in-a-row to win the Cahokia Conference Championship and make it to the 2022 IHSA State Football Playoffs.

When the Jackets open the season with three schools almost twice or more their size, it is tough to have early success and build confidence. Against Benton last week, the task was tough, and the outnumbered Jackets stalled.

CHS senior Braxton Conder, a 5’11” 175 Lb. tight end and linebacker for the YellowJackets, caught a 26-yard pass for CHS at the 9:15 mark of the 3rd quarter against Benton Friday September 1 to give the Jackets a rare 1st-and-ten. Jim Beers Photo

The Jackets won the coin toss and elected to receive to start the game. Chester’s Devante Palacio took the opening kickoff and had an excellent return to the 47 yard line. A great showing to begin the game! 

On the second play, the Jackets committed a 15-yard penalty giving them a 1-and-25 situation.  So much for the great start, Facing 4-and-5 with 9:52 to play in the 1st Quarter, CHS turned the ball over on downs.  That set the true tone for the remainder of the game.

On their first possession of the game, the Rangers scored on a 19-yard pass from quarterback Tiffin Kouzoukas to Riley Spencer. The Jackets blocked the extra point attempt, but Benton led, 6-0 at the 6:53 mark.

On the kickoff, Chester’s Devante Palacio once again gave the Jackets good field possession with a 40-yard kickoff return. A Zain Al-Jassim pass to Palacio on the first play from scrimmage once again gave Jackets fans hope and a 1st-and-ten.

Three plays later Al-Jassim ran a quarterback keeper for another 1st-and-ten, and Chester fans were even more confident and hopeful. Facing 2-and-7 and 4:43 to play in the first period, an Al-Jassim pass was intercepted and CHS was also called 15-yards for a face mask penalty.  Benton took over.

On Benton’s first play from scrimmage of their second possession, Chester’s Aden Runge broke up a potential great pass play by Benton’s Kouzoukas. Three plays later, Chester’s Logan Jausel intercepted a Benton pass giving Chester the ball back with 3:11 to play in the first period. CHS fans regained their hope and confidence.

It was too much-to-soon, however, as on the third play from scrimmage, another Al-Jassim pass was intercepted, this time by Benton’s Izaiah Dalton. To make things much worse, Dalton ran the ball 45-yards for a second Ranger touchdown giving Benton a 12-0 lead with 1:49 left in the period. Jesser Zepeda’s second extra-point attempt was once again blocked by the Chester defense.

With 1:38 remaining in the first quarter, Kolton Jany took the kickoff and returned it to the 40-yard line. On the next play, Al-Jassim connected with Palacio for a nice pass putting the ball on Benton’s 38 yard line with 1:04 to play and a Chester 1st-and-ten.

On the next play, Al-Jassim was intercepted for the third time in the first quarter and Benton had the ball with 53.2 seconds to play. Chester’s defense held the Rangers for the rest of the first quarter and it was still a competitive game after one quarter. Benton led, 12-0.

Benton had the ball to start the second quarter facing 4-and-2. The Chester defense forced the Rangers to punt.

Chester had the ball for just four downs and had to punt after Al-Jassim tripped and fell for a 12-yard loss. Facing 4th-and- long, CHS was forced to punt at the 9:52 mark.

Benton took over and began what would be a devastating end tothe first half for Chester.  In just a little more than a minute, the Rangers scored the first of three touchdowns in the second quarter.

 Quarterback Tiffin Kouzoukas scored on a 1-yard scamper into the end zone. Jesser Zepeda kicked the first of what would turn out to be five extra-points in the game. Rangers led, 19-0 with 8:01 remaining in the half.

On Chester’s next possession, Al-Jassim was forced to run the ball twice and Gage Hopkins had a nice 7-yard run giving CHS a 1st-and-ten. At the 5:46 mark, Al-Jassim was sacked for a 9-yard loss. On the next play, Al-Jassim was sacked again and fumbled the ball. Benton recovered and took over at the 4:45 mark.

Facing 2-and-6 with the ball on the Chester 27-yard line, Benton’s quarterback, Tiffin Kouzoukas, hit Clay Gage for a 27-yard touchdown. Jesser Zepeda kicked his second extra point of the night and Benton led, 26-0, with 4:30 left in the half.

On the kickoff Benton kicked the ball into the end zone and Chester started on their own 20-yard line.  A false start penalty gave CHS a 5-yard penalty and they faced 1-15. A great Al-Jassim pass to Kolton Jany gave CHS 9-yards. On the next play, Al-Jassim’s pass was intercepted. It was the fourth interception of the night for Chester.

The Rangers had the ball on Chester’s 30 yard line with 3:43 to play in the first half. A completed pass took the ball to the goal live with 3:10 remaining. On the next play, Tiffin Kouzoukas ran the ball in for a touchdown on a quarterback keeper. Jesser Zepeda kicked his third extra point of the game and Benton led, 33-0 with 3:01 to play in the first half.

On Chester’s next possession, the Jackets stalled and had to punt with 2:07 left in the half. Chester then returned the favor and held the Rangers for four downs and forced them to punt with 1:09 remaining.

On Chester’s next possession Al-Jassim was sacked and on the final play of the possession, there was a high snap and the loose ball was recovered by Chester’s Kareem Landeros. Facing 4-and-ten, Chester turned the ball over on downs.

Benton had the ball with 38.2 seconds to play. They got a first down on a completed pass and with 10-seconds left, Chester’s Aden Runge intercepted a Kouzoukas pass and CHS got the ball back with 1.8 seconds remaining. Chester quarterback Zain Al-Jassim took a knee to end the first half. Benton led, 33-0.

Benton received the opening kickoff to start the second half. The Ranger’s had the ball for three minutes during which Chester’s Nate Heuer had a fantastic quarterback sack for a 10-yard loss. A Benton false start took them back another 5-yards.

Chester’s defense stopped the Ranger drive forcing them to attempt a field goal at the 9:21 mark. Jesser Zepeda’s 41-yard field goal was good and Benton extended its lead to 36-0 at the 9:15 mark of the 3rd quarter.

On Chester’s next possession, on the first play from scrimmage, Braxton Conder caught a great 26-yard pass from Zain Al-Jassim to give the Jackets some life and hope. On the third play of the series, Chester dropped the ball and Benton recovered.

The Rangers took over on Chester’s 44 yard line with 7:25 to play in the 3rd quarter. The Rangers completed back-to-back first downs. With 4:57 to play in the third quarter, quarterback Tiffin Kouzoukas ran it in the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown. Zepeda kicked his fourth extra point of the game and Benton led by 43 points, 43-0. This forced a continuous clock for the rest of the game.

The Jackets had the ball for just three plays and were forced to punt at the 2:20 mark after running for minus 3-yards and minus 2-yards on back-to-back plays.

The Rangers took over with 2:07 left in the third period. After running two plays and facing 3-and-6 with just 19-seconds remaining, quarterback Tiffin Kouzoukas closed out the quarter with a nice 32-yard pass to Luke Barry. The Zepeda extra point was good and Benton ended the third quarter ahead by 50 points, 50-0.

With the clock ticking continuously throughout the 4th quarter, time didn’t seem to fly fast enough for the YellowJackets.

Chester stalled on its first possession and had to punt. Benton answered with yet an 8th touchdown at the 1:55 mark to extend the lead to 56-0 on a Lucas Kinsman 12-yard touchdown run. Zander Hammonds kicked the extra point and the Rangers led, 57-0.

In the final possession of the game, Chester had a 10-yard penalty and was stalled on a run. The Jackets let the clock run out on the last play to end the game. Rangers won, 57-0.

In the game Benton ran a total of 56 plays and Chester ran 52 plays. The Rangers recorded 253 yards (126 passing and 127 on the ground) and The YellowJackets recorded 175 yards (149 passing and just 26 running).

The Rangers had 17 first downs and CHS had 6 first downs. Chester led in turnovers with 6 (two fumbles and four passes intercepted) while Benton had two turnovers (both fumbles). Regarding penalties Benton committed 7 for 36 yards and Chester had 5 penalties for 62 yards.

Chester’s Zain Al-Jassim completed 6-of-14 passes (43%) for a total of 149 yards. Benton’s Tiffin Kouzoukas threw for 126 yards (11-of-17 for 65%).

The YellowJackets rushed for just 26 yards. Aden Runge led the team with 2 attempts for 11 yards; Gage Hopkins ran for 9 yards in 4 attempts; Logan Jausel had 5 attempts for 5 yards; and Kolton Jany ran 5 times for 2 yards.

Benton’s quarterback led the Ranger’s rushing game with 50 yards in 7 attempts with 2 touchdowns. A. Craven ran 3 times for 20 yards.

In the receiving game Chester’s Devante Palacio caught 4 passes for 63 yards; Braxton Conder caught 1 pass for 26 yards; and Kolton Jany caught 1 pass for 14 yards.

Chester sophomore Ethan Colvis led the Jackets in tackles with 4 solos and 1 assist; Gage Hopkins had 3 solos, 4 assists, and 1 tackle for a loss; Cayden Brunkhorst had 3 solos; Nate Heuer had 2 solos, 1 assist, a sack, and 1 tackle for a loss; Korbin Jany had 2 solos and 2 assists; Trent Eggemeyer had 2 solos and 1 assist; Aden Runge had 1 solo and 1 assist; Garret Hopkins, had 1 solo; Gene Bicket had 1 solo and 1 assist; and Lannin Caron had 1 solo.

Aden Runge and Kolton Jany each had interceptions. Freshman Kareem Landeros recovered a fumble. Landeros also punted 3 times for 33 yards and kicked off once with 29 yards.