EAST ST. LOUIS — The East St. Louis Flyers had extra motivation and too many weapons for which the Belleville West Maroons had little response Saturday at Clyde Jordan Stadium.
Senior running back Gregory Taylor ran for 261 yards and four touchdowns to spark an offensive explosion as the Flyers thrilled a large homecoming crowd with a 62-17 win in a Southwestern Conference game.
The Flyers (5-3, 4-2) led 21-10 at halftime, then put the game away with a 41-point second half.
Senior quarterback Dominic Nelson fired a 67-yard scoring pass to freshman Jeff Thomas, Taylor tallied on runs of 8 and 77 yards and East St. Louis returned two interceptions for touchdowns as it virtually assured itself a Class 6A playoff berth.
"I'm very pleased for the kids. There were some things said by their (West) coaches about how we have slipped and how they had narrowed the gap," East St. Louis coach Darren Sunkett said. "Our kids felt like they had something to prove today. It was definitely blackboard material.
"In all phases of the game, I thought we played well. We're just continuing to build towards the playoffs."
West (6-2, 4-2) was playing for the second straight week without quarterback Sherand Boyd (knee injury). The Maroons scored twice on long touchdown passes of 65 and 51 yards from TeAntez Anthony to Brian Hill, but otherwise struggled to mount any sustained offense against a swarming Flyers defense.
On its first five possessions, West were held to minus-8 yards rushing.
"They were loading up in the box against us and without Sherand (Boyd), it's just tough," West coach Cameron Pettus said. "We've got do a better job, because that's what we're going to see in the playoffs.
"They (East St. Louis) are good. Brian (Hill) and TeAntez (Anthony) were able to give us a couple of big plays. But we just couldn't sustain any kind of offense running the football."
Taylor put East St. Louis ahead midway through the first quarter on a 10-yard TD run. But West, taking advantage of one of three Flyers' first-half turnovers, cut the lead to 7-3 on a 30-yard field goal by Austin Soubrette.
On the Flyers next possession, they marched 70 yards on six plays to increase the lead to 14-3. Taylor ripped off gains of 18 and 23 yards to key the drive, which ended when Nelson connected with Treevon Prater on a 17-yard scoring pass.
Nelson finished the game 9-of-16 for 226 yards.
"Dominic has to be the catalyst of this offense. I was on him pretty good all week about taking control and becoming more of a leader and today he did that," Sunkett said. "It's a matter of executing on both sides of the football and today we did that.
"We gave up a couple of big plays, but for the most part I was pleased with our effort."
Taylor made it 21-3 late in the first half on a 1-yard run. But a 65-yard pass from Anthony to Hill cut the Maroons' deficit to 21-10 at the half.
Things only got worse for West late in the third quarter.
With the Flyers leading by 11, Taylor scored on an 8-yard run with 26 seconds left in the third quarter, making it 35-17.
Taylor added a 77-yard run in a 27-point Flyers' fourth quarter, which featured interception returns for scores of 45 yards from Prater and 27 yards from all-state defensive end Terry Beckner.
Wilbur Jones ran 82 yards for a touchdown with a fumble return on the final play of the game.