Flyers and Tigers ready to rumble in opening week of league play

News-DemocratSeptember 12, 2013 

— There's no denying the rivalry that has developed between East St. Louis and Edwardsville.

The latest chapter will unfold at 7 p.m. Friday when the Flyers visit Edwardsville in the Southwestern Conference opener for both teams.

"We've built up a pretty good rivalry throughout the years," East St. Louis coach Darren Sunkett said. "Coach (Matt) Martin does a great job preparing his team week in and week out. We're definitely looking forward to a big battle this weekend.

"I think it is a little more intense with us and Edwardsville, and it kind of stems from when Tim (Dougherty) was still coaching. It was just a very competitive atmosphere year in and year out."

Martin acknowledges the rivalry.

"They're the champs," Martin said of the Flyers. "They've been good and they've been where we like to be."

Friday's game: East St. Louis (1-1) at Edwardsville (2-0), 7 p.m.

Last meeting: Edwardsville rallied past the Flyers 21-18 in the second round of the 2012 Class 7A playoffs Nov. 2 in Edwardsville, erasing a 12-0 deficit it faced late in the third quarter. It was the Tigers' first on-the-field win over the Flyers since the 2005 playoffs.

New quarterback? Sunkett said the Flyers on Thursday afternoon were awaiting word from the Illinois High School Association about the eligibility of quarterback Dominic Nelson, a transfer from Cardinal Ritter High School in St. Louis. "He's a bright kid. If they give him the nod, he'll be well-prepared," Sunkett said. "If he doesn't play, we still have Tamarcus Jones. Tamarcus has done a fairly decent job. He's just been up and down."

Hot hand: Edwardsville quarterback Dan Marinko is off to a sizzling start, going 21-for-29 for 291 yards and six touchdowns. Marinko was 9-for-13 for 181 yards and five TDs on Saturday in a 49-6 victory over Soldan. "If he has a big day on offense, we're probably doing pretty good," Martin said. "He's a solid kid. He brings a toughness and a cerebral part to the game that a lot of kids don't have. He's got a balanced attack as far as running and passing."

Big plays: East St. Louis would like to get the Tigers on their heels with quick-strike scores, whether it be a long rushing touchdown by Natereace Strong (42 carries, 260 yards) or a receiving touchdown from Greg Taylor (seven catches, 100 yards) or Darrelle Thomas (seven catches, 91 yards). "We're a big-play offense," Sunkett said. "We don't want to drive the ball 80 yards in 12, 13 plays. We like to strike you big and take your confidence from you."

The Tigers' goal will be to keep the fleet-footed Flyers in front of them. "That's probably one of our biggest goals every game, not just against East Side," Martin said. "If you can limit the big plays, you give the offense more of a chance to make a mistake. But I've also seen East Side drive the field for 10 and 14 plays. They do that, too. The best thing is to have the ball in your own hands."

Getting the first one: The conference is tough at the top, with five teams capable of winning the title. "You never want to start off with a loss within your conference," Sunkett said. "You want to roll into it with a lot of momentum and you want to finish with a lot of momentum. We're not taking anybody lightly in our conference."

Contact reporter David Wilhelm at or 239-2665.

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