Leaving behind the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey, the Shreveport, La. Evangel Christian Academy football team has arrived in the St. Louis area and will take on the East St. Louis Flyers beginning at 7 p.m. at the second annual Gateway Scholars Football Classic on Saturday at Clyde C. Jordan Stadium in East St. Louis.
The game, the third of three marquee match-ups, will feature a pair of defending state champions both riding lengthy winning streaks.
Evangel Christian, which won Louisiana Division I state title a year ago, brings a 12-game winning streak into its season-opening game, while East St. Louis, the Class 7A Illinois champions, is riding a 15-game winning streak.
East St. Louis opened its season a week ago with a 40-28 win over New Lenox, Ill. Providence Catholic.
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“They (Evangel Chrsitian) were able to get out and they are here,” East St. Louis athletic director Leonard Manley said. “Evangel has a tremendous football tradition and along with what we consider two other excellent match-ups, we’re hoping people come out and support these young student-athletes.”
The three game Gateway Scholars Classic begins at 1 p.m. when Cahokia takes on Camden (N.J.) High School. Belleville West will take on Erial (N.J.) Timber Creek Regional High School in the middle game beginning at 4 p.m.
Tickets are $10 and are available at the gate. Tickets are good for all three games, but there will be no readmission. People who leave the stadium will have to purchase another ticket if they wish to return.
The event includes a college fair from 9 a.m.-noon at East St. Louis High School. Manley expects tickets will go on sale at about 11 a.m. A near capacity crowd is expected.
Both Evangel Christian and East St. Louis feature several future NCAA Division I players. The Eagles, who finished 12-2 a year ago are led by a trio of LSU recruits in defensive tackle Davin Cotton, inside linebacker Micah Baskerville and safety ArDarius Washington.
Evangel returns virtually its entire defensive unit from a team that recorded six shutouts and allowed nine or fewer points in 10 games in 2016. The Flyers, which finished 14-0 a year ago, are led by senior quarterback Christian Perez who had five touchdown passes a week ago in the win over Providence.
East St. Louis will be without its top running back in senior Jarrell Anderson who suffered an ACL injury a week ago and is out for the year. Senior Jigg Brown will be the Flyers top threat in the backfield, while Perez has plenty of receivers including Lawaun Powell and Perez Hall of which to throw.
Camden, N.J. High School will be playing its season opener against Cahokia, which fell to Vianney 42-7 in its opener last week.
While East St. Louis faces a major test in playing Evangel Christian, so to does Belleville West. The Maroons will battle Timber Creek from New Jersey in the middle game on Saturday. Timber Creek, which is ranked eighth in the preseason New Jersey football rankings, was 12-0 a year ago.
Belleville West, in search of its sixth straight playoff appearance, opened with a 48-24 win at Quincy last week. The Maroons are led by senior Kriston Davis, who ran for 215 yards and three touchdowns in last week against the Blue Devils.