Appearances can be deceiving. In the case of the (New Lenox) Providence Catholic Celtics, no truer words could be spoken.
One of the premier football programs in the state, Providence enters its Class 6A quarterfinal against East St. Louis today as a No. 8 seed with a 7-4 record.
A closer look tells a different story. A member of the top football conference in the state -- the Chicago Catholic League Blue Division-- the Celtics have lost to Joliet Catholic, (Wilmette) Loyola Academy, (Chicago) St. Rita and (Chicago) Mount Carmel, which have a combined record of 39-5.
"Every year those guys are either playing for a state championship or going deep into the playoffs,'' East St. Louis coach Darren Sunkett said of Providence. "They've lost four games, but I think three of them were against teams which have been nationally ranked at one time or another this season.
"We have a tall order going up there and playing against those guys. But I think our football team is ready for the challenge.''
Today's game: East St. Louis (8-3) at (New Lenox) Providence Catholic (7-4), 1 p.m.
Last week: East St. Louis rallied with 25 unanswered points to defeat Normal Community 38-16; Providence defeated Quincy 55-27. The Celtics defeated defending Class 6A state champion Crete-Monee 25-14 in the opening round two weeks ago.
Titles galore: East St. Louis and Providence have combined for 16 state championships and six runner-up finishes. Providence has nine state titles, while East St. Louis has seven.
East St. Louis players to watch: QB Dominic Nelson (75 of 140 for 1,365 yards, 13 TDs and 5 Ints.); RB Gregory Taylor (145 carries for 1,419 yards and 18 TDs); WR Jeff Thomas (44 receptions for 843 yards and 10 TDs); WR: Treevon Prater (25 receptions for 393 yards and 4 TDs); LB Kyron Watson (134 tackles, 78 solos, 3 sacks and 2 Ints.); DT Terry Beckner (112 tackles, 68 solos, 8 sacks).
Providence players to watch: RB Dominic Lagone (258 carries, 1,674 yards and 22 TDs); QB Justin Hunniford (134 for 232 for 1,618 yards and 18 TDs); WR: Miles Boykin (43 receptions for 623 yards and 11 TDs); WR Nate Vejvoda (13 receptions for 341 yards and 3TDs); WR Luc Quaranta (41 receptions for 336 yards).
Sunkett's scouting report: "Providence is just a very fundamentally sound football team. They've had a little success the last couple of weeks throwing the football, but I expect they'll come right at us with the running game. They are big up front on offense, but on defense they rely more on speed and quickness.''
Keys to the game: "We can't turn the football over and we can't have a lot of penalties. We just have to be able to contain their running game and on offense we need to be able to mix up the run and the pass and be effective with both.''
Up next: The winner of the Providence-East St. Louis game will take on the winner of the (Frankfort) Lincoln-Way North-(Oak Lawn) Richards game in a Class 6A semifinal next week. If East St. Louis wins, it would host the game.