Morthland quarterback leads team to winning season
Dennis Chester started playing tackle football in sixth grade, and by his own admission, he was not very good.
Chester told Southwest Illinois News that when he played for a Pop Warner team, he was not considered strong or big, so he played defense. One year later, things were different.
“The next year, in the seventh grade, I played backup quarterback and probably in the middle of the year, they started me, and I've been playing quarterback ever since,” he said.
Chester's journey to the role of quarterback is mirrored in his path to Morthland College, where he was the team's starting quarterback through its first season of varsity football this year.
According to statistics on MorthlandPatriots.com, Chester, a sophomore from Porterville, California, threw for 1,941 yards and 19 touchdowns in seven games this season, giving him an average of 277.3 yards per contest. He was 133 for 229 on passing attempts, a 58 percent average, and had 10 interceptions. One of his bigger games this season included throwing for 363 yards and four touchdowns in the Patriots' 66-40 win over Trinity College on Oct. 15 in Des Moines.
Before coming to Morthland, Chester played at the College of the Sequoias, a junior college in Visalia, California. As a redshirt freshman in the 2015 season, Chester was 61-of-119, passing (51.3 percent) for 683 yards, two touchdowns and six interceptions, according to cosgiants.com. He had another year of eligibility there, but Morthland Head Coach Mike Popovich gave him a call.
“The more we talked, the more I liked his vision and everything he had going on,” Chester said.
That got Chester to head east to Illinois and suit up for the Patriots, and he said it has been “a good transition.” He likes the offense at Morthland, which moves at a fast tempo and includes a lot of throwing.
“Coach Pop makes the reads easy for me, so I always get the ball out quick," Chester said. "That's what I like about it."
The game first came to Chester largely through his older brother, Derek, who also played football. Derek taught Chester everything he knows about football and many other sports, Chester said.
“Once he found out that I could throw a football, it was over from there,” Chester said. “I've spent my whole life working on it.”
The physicality of the game drew Chester in, he said, as well as the emotions and the speed. He also talked about how much fun he finds in playing his position in particular.
“As a quarterback, I like to read defenses and pick them apart,” he said.
Reflecting on the team's season, in which the Patriots were 5-3 through the first eight games, Chester said he had high expectations coming into the program's first varsity season, as well as high expectations for himself. He believes that he, the team and the coaching staff did their best this season.
“It's just been a good year," Chester said. "I had a lot of fun."
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