Football Preview: Dill leads a talented, experienced group at Chester

CHESTER >> Most coaches hold back when asked what to expect from the upcoming season. They’ll dance around the question or speak in generalities.

Second-year Chester coach Tony Beaty didn’t sugarcoat the expectations for his team.

“We’ll be disappointed if we don’t win the (Del Val) league,” Beaty said matter-of-factly.

There’s reason for Beaty and his staff to be optimistic. He has a veteran group, led by 20 seniors, most notably Temple commit D’Andre Dill, one of the premier defensive tackles in the state. Beaty is counting on that experience to be the difference.

He isn’t alone in that line of thinking. The players feel their experience is what will set them apart from the rest of the teams in the league.

“We have potential to go far, and not just in the league,” Dill said. “We have a lot of returning starters so I think there’s a lot we can do.”

“We have a lot of four-year guys,” running back/strong safety Ed Nelson Jr. said. “We’re not only looking to compete, we’re looking to win.”

Senior quarterback Nahmir Ishmail unleashes a pass during a preseason practice for Chester. Ishmail brings size, speed and a powerful arm to the position for the Clippers. (Times Staff/Robert J. Gurecki)
Senior quarterback Nahmir Ishmail unleashes a pass during a preseason practice for Chester. Ishmail brings size, speed and a powerful arm to the position for the Clippers. (Times Staff/Robert J. Gurecki)

The Clippers showed they could compete last season. They won three of their last four games to finish 4-6 overall and 3-2 in the Del Val. Of those six losses, four were by eight points or less. Overall, Chester was involved in six games that were decided by eight points or less.

“We’re battle-tested,” Beaty said.

Dill and Nelson are two of the more experienced players on the roster. Both are four-year starters, although Dill is coming off an ACL injury to his right knee, which he suffered while playing in an amateur basketball league last January. He was cleared to play Aug. 18, the day after camp opened.

“I feel good,” Dill said. “I’m good to go.”

“If you saw him in our two scrimmages, you would never know he was injured,” Beaty said. “He’s worked hard to get back. The big thing now is that we’re still trying to get him back into football shape.”

Nelson leads a secondary that returns intact. He’s also a 4.0 student, the class president and has received recruiting interest from Georgetown as well as several Ivy League schools including Harvard, Yale and Brown.

“I take a lot of pride in my classroom work,” Nelson Jr. said. “As my dad always says, I could break my leg tomorrow, but no one can take my education away from me.”

Quarterback Nahmir Ishmail is one of the many other seniors Beaty is counting on. He has good size (6-1, 195), good speed and a powerful arm. Ishmail has a lot of weapons from which to choose. Nelson, Arlo Lee and Jaquan Flood will split time in the backfield. Rashee Alexander is a talented player who can play multiple positions.

The strength of the offense, though, is up front, where the line returns intact. Dill, Keyshaun Ash (6-0, 350), Naim Little Jr. (5-7, 225), Desmond Hardy Jr. (6-3, 350) and Davon Lewis (6-0, 255) are big and mobile and are expected to set the tone.

“Our offensive coordinator, Dahnte Crawley, made adjustments to our offense that should help us,” Beaty said. “Our running game should be much more efficient.”

Many of the players on offense will also be on defense, but it is a unit that showed a lot of promise as the 2014 season drew to a close. In its last three games Chester held Academy Park to 14 points, Chichester to 13 and Interboro to 12.

Dill sets the tone up front. He’s a run-stopper who can also get to the quarterback. Nelson and Alexander are the anchors in the secondary, while Lee heads up the linebackers. The strength of the unit, though, is its speed.

However, Chester’s greatest attribute is its experience.

“We know each other,” Nelson said. “Dill and I have been playing together since seventh grade. We’re more than just teammates, we’re best friends. We hang out at each other’s house all the time so we know what it takes to win and we want to make that happen this year.”

“We’re probably the oldest team in the league and I think that should put us over the top,” Beaty said.

This story appears in the Delco Times Football Preview, available on newsstands Friday.

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