Flyers' top football players catch the eye of elite national programs

News-DemocratJuly 19, 2013 

— Blessed with a rare combination of speed, quickness, pure power and desire, East St. Louis junior Terry Beckner Jr. seemingly has the world at his fingertips.

And nearly every NCAA Division I football power in the nation is drooling over what seems to be the limitless potential of the 6-foot-4-inch, 275-pound defensive lineman.

Ranked as high as the No. 2 high school defensive lineman in the nation by some scouting services, Beckner is high on the recruiting list of schools such as Big Ten powers Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska as well as the Big 12 and Southeastern Conference schools.

Except one.

"The only one he hasn't gotten an offer from is Alabama. But we've heard from all the other SEC schools, as well as everybody from the Big 12 and Big Ten Conferences,'' East St. Louis coach Darren Sunkett said this week.

"Terry just needs to keep working hard and doing the things which have gotten him to this point. He's got an outstanding future in front of him.''

Beckner is just one of several members of a talent-rich Flyers football program, which should be among the top Class 7A teams in the state during the 2013 season.

Sunkett said that several other Flyers have either already committed or are being heavily recruited by NCAA Division I or FCS schools.

Also considered among the top nation's juniors is Flyers running back Natereace Strong. The fleet 6-foot, 195-pound Strong has already received offers from Ohio State, Michigan State, Missouri and Kansas.

Strong has power and speed. The Flyers junior placed second in the 100 meters at the Class 2A state track and field meet in Charleston in the spring, helping East St. Louis to a second-place finish behind Cahokia in the team competition.

Among the Flyers who have committed to schools are Kyron Watson, who is going to Kansas, defensive back Greg Taylor, who is going to Missouri and Western Michigan recruit Treevon Prater.

The Flyers open their season on Aug. 30, when they host perennial Missouri state power (Kansas City) Rockhurst.

The East St. Louis-Rockhurst game will be a rematch of the game played a year ago in Kansas City, won by Rockhurst 20-12.

"When you talk about Rockhurst, you are talking about a program which has multiple state championships and is known as one of the top programs in the Missouri-Kansas area, if not the entire Midwest,'' Sunkett said. "They are also coming off a state championship in basketball and sometimes that just carries over.

"The one thing about Rockhurst is that they get the best players in the Kansas City area and their coaching staff does a tremendous job of getting their kids ready to play.''

Things don't get any easier in week 2 for East St. Louis, which will take on four-time defending Class 5A state champion Lombard Montini at the fourth annual City of Champions Foundation High School Classic on Sept. 7 at Clyde Jordan Stadium in East St. Louis.

Founded by former East Side football greats Julyon Brown and Dana Howard, the City of Champions Classic begins at noon, when the Edwardsville Tigers take on Soldan, Mo.

The O'Fallon Panthers, also expected to be a Class 7A power this season, will take on (Chicago) Loyola Academy at 2:45 p.m., followed by the Montini-East St. Louis contest at 5:45 p.m.

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