Playing week-after-week in the ultra-competitive Southwestern Conference, the O'Fallon Panthers are accustomed to overcoming challenges.
What's the old saying? In order to be the best, you have to beat the best. Today at Clyde Jordan Stadium in East St. Louis, the Panthers have a chance to beat the best when they take on (Wilmette) Loyola Academy in a battle of Class 8A giants.
Loyola, which reached the state title game in 2011 and has been to the Class 8A state semifinals in each of the past four years, is the top-ranked Class 8A team in the state entering the City of Champions Classic and has won 57 of 67 games since 2008.
"We're looking forward to playing a very good football team in Loyola,'' said Panthers coach Brandon Joggerst. "Their record speaks for itself. And we are looking at this as a challenge. It's fun to see how we measure up and compete against the best teams."
The Ramblers figure to have their hands full with O'Fallon. The Panthers are ranked fourth in Class 8A and are coming off an impressive 40-12 win at Cahokia last week.
Saturday's game: (Wilmette) Loyola Academy (1-0) vs. O'Fallon (1-0), 2:45 p.m.
Last week: Loyola defeated Milwaukee (Wis.) Marquette 31-8; O'Fallon defeated Cahokia 40-12.
Loyola top players (2012 stats): QB Jack Penn; RB Julius Holley (761 yards, 14 TD's); WR Joe Joyce (40 catches, 398 yards); TE Joe Dixon (28 catches, 284 yards); OL Milan Urakalo (6-3, 265), OL Matthew Kubon (6-1, 245); DT Charlie Pontarelli (6-2, 265); LB Austin Lyons (44 tackles).
O'Fallon top players (last Friday's stats): WR-KR-S Klayton Gettis (4 receptions 30 yards, 2 TD's, 1 return, 79 yards); QB Camden Bauer (14-of-23, 80 yards, 2TD's); RB Kentrail Moran (19 carries, 94 yards, 1TD); PK Tucker McCann (4 FG, 16 points); LB Marques Cooper (5 tackles, 1 assist); DE Dewayne Hendrix (3 tackles, 2 assists, 3 sacks).
Advantage: "I think they may be a little bigger and we may have an edge with our speed,'' Joggerst said. "They are pretty balanced and they'll take what is available either with the run or the pass. They like to spread the field on you."
Keys to the game: "Of course we can't turn the football over and we need to move the football on offense. We need to keep their offense off the field,'' Joggerst said.
Penn shines in debut: Making his first varsity start, Loyola quarterback Jack Penn went 17-of-32 for 272 yards and two scores in the Ramblers' win over Milwaukee Marquette.
Tough competition: Loyola is accustomed to playing top-level competition. The Chicago Catholic League Blue Division is one of the top high school football conferences in the state. In addition to Loyola, other perennial state title contenders include Chicago Mount Carmel, Chicago Brother Rice, Chicago St. Rita and New Lenox Providence.
Notes: Loyola coach John Holecek was a teammate at the University of Illinois with Julyon Brown and Dana Howard, East St. Louis legends and City of Champions Foundation Classic organizers.