Flyers hope to rely on playoff tradition

News-DemocratOctober 28, 2013 

Qualifying for the state football playoffs hardly registers on anyone's excitement level when it comes to the East St. Louis Flyers.

This will mark the Flyers' area-record 34th playoff appearance and 14th straight time in the postseason. East Side is the proud owner of seven state championships and three second-place finishes, along with a combined state playoff record of 77-26.

The Flyers (6-3), who have won five straight after a 1-3 start, will be on the road for a 1 p.m. Class 6A game Saturday against Normal West (8-1)

Carlyle grad finds success

In his first year as the head coach at Plano, former Carlyle High and University of Miami player Brad Kunz is off to a flying start.

Plano is 8-1 and has a No. 5 seed in the Class 4A playoffs as it prepares to play Interstate Eight Conference archrival Sandwich (5-4) in a first-round home game at 7 p.m. Friday.

Sandwich handed Plano its only loss this season, 24-20 Sept. 13.

"It was an ideal situation to step into the job," said the 31-year-old Kunz, an assistant at Plano for three years and four years before that with the Carlyle Indians. "The program was already in shape and we'd made the playoffs in the two years prior to this, plus we have a senior class with 24 kids."

Plano won the Interstate Eight Conference title and outscored the opposition 350-157 this season. The Reapers won back-to-back Class 3A state championships in 2006 and 2007, knocking off the Columbia Eagles in the 2007 state title game.

"It's a pretty solid tradition, but it's a relatively new tradition," Kunz said. "This is only the ninth year that Plano's made the playoffs and we've made it eight out of the last nine."

Kunz didn't make many major changes, but did shift the offense from a wing-T style to more of a pro-style offense with a pistol formation and some double-wing.

"I knew the system and I knew the way it worked," he said. "What I tried to do was go from where everything was and allow it to evolve into what I wanted it to be."

Going 8-1 in his first season as a head coach was special.

"I kind of set the bar high, but it's a great community here that supports football quite a bit," Kunz said.

Kunz credits a lot of his coaching success to former Carlyle coach Gary Wheeler and current Indians coach Randy Dooley. Kunz also is a big fan of Columbia coach Scott Horner, a former quarterback at Carlyle who helped lead the Indians to their only state title in 1988 under Wheeler.

Dooley's Carlyle squad is 8-1 and will be at home at 1 p.m. Saturday for a Class 2A game against Eldorado (7-2). Horner's Columbia Eagles are 9-0 and have a 1 p.m. Class 4A home game Saturday against Althoff (5-4).

"It's a cool thing to see the success with Coach Dooley and Coach Horner," Kunz said. "The way I look at it, Coach Wheeler is 25-2 this season. I love Carlyle and miss Carlyle, I'll always be a Carlyle Indian. But I've definitely landed in a wonderful place up here that I call home now."

Freeburg trying to slow down Comets

Few teams in the Class A playoff bracket are capable of scoring like the Greenville Comets. Greenville has more than 4,000 yards of total offense and averages 49.8 points -- the most of any 4A playoff qualifier -- and nearly 500 yards per game.

Slowing the Comets down is the task of the Freeburg Midgets (5-4), who travel to Greenville for a 1 p.m. first-round game Saturday.

Since 2006, the Comets are 77-10 and have lost in the 3A semifinals in each of the last two years to Mt. Carmel and Tolono Unity.

This is also Greenville's fifth unbeaten regular season in seven years and the Comets have won nine South Central Conference championships in the last 10 years.

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, or on Twitter @NormSanders

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