If the opening game of the season is any indication what's to come for the East St. Louis Flyers, we should all be in store for a lot of excitement.
Head coach Darren Sunkett and his staff should have the "street patrol" in the City of Champions again making a trip north on Thanksgiving weekend playing for a state championship. The Flyers got off to a flying start last Saturday afternoon, defeating 10-time state champion New Lenox Providence Catholic 40-28.
East St. Louis came up with the big victory despite losing all-state running back Jerrel Anderson on the first play of the game. Anderson broke through the Celtics line of scrimmage and rambled 65 yards when his knee gave away. Anderson rushed for 1,477 yards with 21 touchdowns last year in helping the Flyers to the Class 7 state championship. At press time the severity of his injury was unknown. However, his teammates stepped up big-time.
Senior quarterback Christian Perez, who has committed to the U.S. Naval Academy, was 20-26 passing for 332 yards and five touchdowns. Wide receivers Eric Rogers ll, Perez Hall Jr. and super sophomore LaWaun Powell Jr. all had touchdown receptions, with Powell Jr. leading the way with touchdown receptions of 53, 15 and five yards. Running back Jigg Brown was a workhorse, rushing for 80 yards on 26 carries.
On defense, the Flyers have a couple of big-time players who are getting big-time Division I attention in linebackers Eric Owens, Terrion Williams, and defensive back Antonio "AJ" Johnson and Davion Towers.
If the Flyers are to run their winning streak to 16 games in a row, they will have to get by a talented Evangel Christian Academy (LA) team in the second annual Gateway Scholarship Football Classic on Saturday at Clyde C. Jordan Stadium in East St. Louis. Kick-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.
They will have to contend with senior quarterback Will Johnson, who is one of the top shortstops in the country in baseball, and has several Division 1 scholarship offers in football as well. In addition, the Eagles have middle linebacker Micah Baskerville (6'2 215), safety ArDarius Washington (5'8 175) and four-star recruit nose tackle Davin Cotton ( 6'1 262). They have all committed to SEC powerhouse LSU.
"They are a well-coached team with a lot of good athletes,” Sunkett said. "We feel like we have some great athletes that won’t be intimidated by anyone coming into our house in front of our fans. We enjoy practice every day and to be involved in these types of games and high football atmospheres."
Last year's game in the inaugural Gateway Scholarship football Classic was a barn burner in front of 10,000 plus against CBC. And this year's organizers expect the same sort of atmosphere and crowd this weekend.
East St. Louis will open up conference play next Friday night when rival Edwardsville pays a visit to the "House of Pain."
The triple header of the Gateway Scholarship Football Classic will kick off at 1 p.m. when the Cahokia Camanches take on Camden New Jersey. At 4 p.m. Belleville West plays Timber Creek out of New Jersey. East St. Louis plays Evangel Christian Academy out of Shreveport, La. at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 for all-day session (games Only) and a $20 fee for tailgating privileges.
Former East Side standouts and brothers Kenny and James Knight will play against each other this weekend in the opening of college football season. Kenny Knight plays for Ball State and James plays for Illinois. The two teams will square off in Champaign on Saturday. Kenny is a defensive lineman while James is on the two-deep depth chart as a true freshman at Illinois. I’m very proud of my two cousins. They are honor roll students as well as top football players.