EAST ST. LOUIS — When the 2013 football season began, East St. Louis senior Gregory Taylor was known for being one of the top defensive backs in the state and being committed to attend the University of Missouri next year.
Flyers coach Darren Sunkett knew even more.
With the Flyers offense struggling to put points on the scoreboard and sitting at 1-3 after four games, Sunkett turned Taylor loose at running back.
"Greg had played a little running back as a freshman, so we knew he could do the job. Plus, he's a great athlete,'' Sunkett said. "I don't know if I expected him to rush for over 1,300 yards and 18 touchdowns during the past six weeks, but I thought he would be successful."
East St. Louis will put its six-game winning streak on the line today when it battles Normal Community in a Class 6A second-round playoff game.
The Flyers seeded No. 6 in their section of the Class 6A bracket, while the Ironmen are seeded second.
Today's game: Normal Community (9-1) at East St. Louis (7-3), 1 p.m., Clyde Jordan Stadium.
One week ago: Normal Community got three touchdowns from running back Jerry Patton and rolled to a 30-0 win over Bloomington. East St. Louis used a 307-yard rushing effort from Taylor and blew past Normal West 33-6.
Sizing up the Ironmen: Normal Community will come to Clyde Jordan Stadium on Saturday riding a seven-game winning streak after dropping its third game of the season to (Skokie) Niles West (21-7). Champions of the Big 12 Conference, the Ironmen have outscored their opponents 385-145. Normal defeated Normal West 35-21 in week five.
East St. Louis coach Darren Sunkett on Normal: "It's a good football team. They've got good size up front and a big, fast running back in the backfield. In watching them on tape, they run some of the same things that Normal West ran against us last week. They run it cleaner."
Normal players to watch: QB Colin Olson (62 of 122 for 661 yards, 7 TDs, 3 Ints.); RB Alec Bozarth (114 carries for 949 yards, 16 TDs); RB Jerry Patton (88 carries for 490 yards, 8 TDs); WR David Boyd (14 receptions for 254 yards and a TD); WR Kyle Lantman (15 receptions for 191 yards and 3 TDs); WR Easton Schaber (11 receptions for 113 yards and 5 TDs).
East St. Louis players to watch: QB Dominic Nelson (65 of 124 for 1,122 yards, 12 TDs, 5 Ints.); RB-DB Gregory Taylor (122 carries for 1,305 yards, 18 TDs; 76 tackles, 49 solos, 2 Ints.); RB Natereace Strong (67 carries for 595 yards, 5 TDs); WR Jeff Thomas (40 catches for 722 yards, 7 TDs); WR Treevon Prater (20 catches 293 yards, 4 TDs); LB Kyron Watson (129 tackles, 82 solos, 3 Ints., 3 sacks); DT Terry Beckner 103 tackles, 62 solos, 7 sacks, 1 Int. and 1 TD).
The Flyers' game plan? "We're going to run the football. I believe that in order to be successful in the playoffs you need to be able to run the ball. We were able to do that last week against Normal West,'' Sunkett said. "Our defense did a great job last week and when you can hold a team to two field goals inside the red zone, you're doing a good job. We just need to not turn the football over and just play good, smart football."