Winning a football game at East St. Louis is never easy for the visitors.
Now try catching the Flyers at home coming off a bitter one-point defeat to Southwestern Conference rival Edwardsville that left them with a 1-2 record.
That's the task for O'Fallon Panthers, who are looking to smooth out a few rough edges of their own.
"I don't know if there's ever a good time to be playing them, but obviously their record is very deceptive because they've played three tremendous opponents," said O'Fallon coach Brandon Joggerst, whose team hasn't beaten the Flyers since 2004. "They're just as dangerous as they've always been. They're athletic and big up front, so they pose a lot of problems."
This game feature's two of the Midwest's top defensive line recruits in East St. Louis junior Terry Beckner, Jr. (6-foot-5, 255 pounds), and O'Fallon senior Dewayne Hendrix (6-4, 270), plus two strong passing attacks.
"There's going to be a lot of great players on both sides of the field that I'm sure will be playing on Saturdays in the next few years," Joggerst said.
Saturday's game: O'Fallon (2-1; ranked sixth in Class 8A) at East St. Louis (1-2; ranked seventh in Class 6A), 2 p.m.
East St. Louis coach Darren Sunkett makes no excuses for his team, which he feels is beginning to get the message that nothing less than their best will do.
"We could easily be 2-1," said Sunkett, whose team has lost to four-time defending state champ Montini and Edwardsville. "We're definitely going to turn the tables on this thing. The kids aren't happy and the coaches aren't happy being 1-2."
What to watch for: One area of concern has been defense, although the Flyers have faced stiff competition.
"We're not able to play man (to man)," Sunkett said. "We've always had pretty good corners and pretty good safeties where we could blitz six or seven and play man behind that, and we're not able to do that."
Flyers quarterback Dominic Nelson threw for 310 yards and three TDs in his first start last week and found an instant connection with freshman receiver Jeff Thomas.
"He and Jeff really connected this past weekend and had lots of success out there," Sunkett said. "Now if we can get the three seniors to step up to Jeff's level and Dominic's level, we'll have a lot more success throwing the football."
How good is Thomas?
"I've never coached a freshman receiver that's played this well this early," Sunkett said. "I knew the kid had it in him and he was definitely an elite athlete."
East St. Louis key players: DL Terry Beckner, Jr. (33 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 Int.); QB Dominic Nelson 23-37, 310 yards, 3 TDs, 3 Ints.); RB Nate Strong (44 carries, 266 yards, 1 TD); WR-DB Gregory Taylor (8 catches, 114 yards, 3 TDs; 34 tackles); LB Kyron Watson (36 tackles, 2 sacks); WR Jeff Thomas (18 catches 282 yards, 2 TDs); WR-DB Treevon Prater (11 catches, 119 yards; 24 tackles, 3 int.).
O'Fallon key players: DE Dewayne Hendrix (22 tackles, 3 sacks); WR Tae'Mon Franklin (10 catches, 203 yards, 3 TDs); RB Kentrail Moran (64 carries, 352 yards, 1 TD); QB Camden Bauer (51-94, 557 yards, 6 TDs, 4 Ints.); WR Klayton Gettis (17 catches, 145 yards, 3 TDs); Kicker Tucker McCann (6 FG, 7 XP); LB Steve Middendorf (22 tackles).
Notes: East Side is playing without star running back Natereace Strong (bruised calf muscle), while O'Fallon is without cornerback Keajion Jennings (broken thumb). O'Fallon linebacker Micquell Cotton missed the last two games with a strained knee ligament and will be a game-time decision.