East St. Louis coach Darren Sunkett and the Flyers need to look no further than their high school trophy case for a little incentive as they journey into the Class 6A playoffs for the first time since the 2000 season.
Of the many trophies and awards proudly displayed are seven state football championship trophies, five of which came in Class 6A.
On Saturday at Normal West High School, the Flyers will begin their quest toward earning No. 6.
"We're looking forward to it. It's a new experience playing against teams we haven't seen before,'' Sunkett said Wednesday. "Class 5A, Class 6A or Class 7A, it really doesn't matter. In each class you've got the best 32 teams in the state and everybody's got the same goal, which is to become state champions.
"At this time of the year there are no easy games. You've got to be ready to go out and lay it on the line for four quarters. We're ready, we're as healthy as we're going to be for this time of year and we feel like we're playing pretty good football right now.
Riding a five-game winning streak heading into the postseason, the Flyers will play a West squad which finished second in the Big 12 Conference and will enter the playoffs with four consecutive wins.
The Wildcats only loss of the season came to league champion Normal Community (35-21).
Like East St. Louis, West features a balanced attack and a defense which has allowed 189 points.
"They run a different offense than what we've seen all year and we've got to be ready for it and be able to make adjustments as the game goes on,'' Sunkett said. "They've got some size up front and their skill-position players have good speed.
"But at this time of year it comes down to execution on both sides of the football. We've got to limit the penalties, not turn the football over and you've got to be able to run the football.
"I like our bracket, but we're certainly not looking ahead. Our focus is on a very good Normal West football team.''
Saturday's game: East St. Louis (6-3) at Normal West (8-1), 1 p.m.
East St. Louis playoff history: The Flyers are making their 35th playoff appearance and have a 77-26 postseason record. East St. Louis has won seven state championships and placed second three other times.
West playoff history: The Wildcats are making their 10th playoff appearance and are 3-9 all-time in the postseason.
Who's the favorite? This one is up for grabs. The Wildcats are seeded third in the bracket, while East St. Louis is a No. 6 seed. But in the final Class 6A state rankings, the Flyers were ranked sixth, while West was ranked 10th.
East St. Louis players to watch: QB Dominic Nelson (63 of 116 for 1,091 yards, 12 TDs and 5 Ints.); RB-DB Gregory Taylor (94 carries for 978 yards and 12 TDs, 65 tackles, 40 solos); RB Natetreace Strong (67 carries for 595 yards and 5 TDs); WR Jeff Thomas (38 receptions for 691 yards and 7 TDs); WR-DB Treevon Prater (20 receptions for 293 yards and 4 TDs; 54 tackles, 29 solos, 6 Ints.); LB Kyron Watson (113 tackles, 71 solos; 3 sacks, 2 Int.); DE Terry Beckner (88 tackles, 53 solos; 6 sacks).
Normal West players to watch: QB Mitch Fairfield (71 of 132 for 1,101 yards, 13 TDs and 4 Ints.); RB Dom Stevenson (154 carries for 1,003 yards and 9 TDs); RB Genia Fuss (77 carries for 721 yards, 9 TDs); RB Darin Bethke (50 carries for 297 yards and 8 TDs); WR Justin Fisher (17 catches for 277 yards and 4 TDs); WR Marquette Suggs (18 catches for 180 yards and 3 TDs); WR Phillip Yuncker (19 catches for 325 yards and 1 TD).