The wind has an autumn breeze to it. The Southwestern Conference flags at historic Clyde C. Jordan Memorial Stadium are still up.
Peering down the 89 blocks of East St. Louis, Illinois, you can look up and see the stadium lights still burning on the campus of East St. Louis Senior High School. Once again, the Flyers are the only football team still standing in the Metro East.
All other programs on this side of the river has closed shop and are preparing for basketball season.
However, East St. Louis Flyers coach Darren Sunkett, along his coaches and players are preparing for another State Championship game.
Last Saturday afternoon, the dynamic duo of quarterback Tyler Macon and running back DaMonta Witherspoon put on an offensive show in front of more than 5,000, as the Flyers steamrolled Chatham Glenwood 50-28 to advance to the Class 6-A title game at Huskies Stadium on the campus of Northern Illinois University. Witherspoon rushed for 199 yards and five touchdowns, while Macon completed 24 out 27 passes for 316 yards. In addition, Macon rushed for 94 yards on 15 attempts. Senior wide receiver Lawaun Powell Jr. had eight catches for 110 yards and junior wide receiver Dominic Lovett had nine catches for 127 yards. Macon and Lovett connected on a 90-yard bomb in the second quarter, where Macon threw the ball 65 yards in the air, only to be called back on a holding penalty. East St. Louis amassed 592 yards of total offense on the day.
East St. Louis, the all-time winningest program in Illinois high school football history with a record of 791 wins 197 losses and 36 ties, will make its 13th title game appearance while attempting to bring back its ninth state championship in school history.
Their opponent on Saturday is Crystal Lake (Prairie Ridge), located in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. They play in the highly regarded Fox Valley Conference. The Wolves won their first state championship in 2011-12. In addition, the Wolves won back to-back state titles in 2016 and 2017.
Prairie Ridge pounded Deerfield High School last Saturday 49-16 in the Northern Class 6-A bracket. Running Back Kyle Koelblinger rushed for more than 200 yards and had touchdown runs of 64, 62, 41, and 2. Quarterback Ryan Nagelback was 13-27 for 185 yards. The Wolves run a triple option attack that the Flyers will have to deal with in Saturday’s title game.
Flyer Nation will be well represented as a couple thousand East St. Louis fans and several fan buses, including Centreville, Illinois Mayor Mark Jackson’s “RV Crew” and the Dwayne Sargent “Orange Crush Express” charter buses are expected to make the four hour trip for the title game Saturday afternoon.
The Flyers will have to deal with the unusual Triple Option attack, something that’s not run much in this part of the state. However, Crystal Lake Prairie Ridge hasn’t run into anything like Darren Sunkett’s high flying offense.
The Flyers bring home their ninth state championship to the City of Champions!
East St. Louis 48 - Crystal Lake Prairie Ridge 20
•When the Flyers win their ninth state championship on Saturday, it will mark the first time in history that the City of Champions will win four state titles in the same calendar year. Earlier this year, the Flyers won state championships in boys’ basketball, boys’ and girls’ track.
•Former East St. Louis Flyer and Olympic Gold medalist Dawn Harper-Nelson is coming out of retirement and will continue her stellar career in track & field.
• Hats off to Flyer football Nation this season with over 5,000 in attendance on Saturday and over 9,000 during the Gateway Scholars Football Classic. There were large crowds on the road for three road games in Chicago this season. In addition, there were big crowds during the Southwestern Conference season.
Coach Darren Sunkett, the staff and the boys asked me to thank all of you for the support throughout the year!