Jigg Brown says he doesn’t have to relish his opportunities to make the most of them.
It took injuries to teammates Jarrell Anderson and Charlando Robinson for the East St. Louis senior to be the featured back in the Flyers’ high-scoring offense. That’s not how he hoped to earn the job.
“It hurts when we lose teammates because I want every brother that I have to be on the field with me,” said Brown, following East Side’s 64-18 win at Belleville East. “But when it’s next man up, it’s next man up. I got to do my job and take care of what I’m needed to take care of.”
Brown took care of the Lancers on Saturday to the tune of 199 yards on 19 carries and four touchdowns. It’s the second week in a row he’s run circles around a Southwestern Conference opponent. Last week, Brown blitzed Edwardsville with 197 yards and a score.
Anderson, an all-area performer last season when the Flyers won the class 7A state championship, went down with a torn ACL in the first week of the season. Robinson — a triple threat who can run, block and catch the football — has been on the sidelines for three weeks in shorts.
But Brown has amassed 479 rushing yards since being called to duty.
“Our running game has not suffered,” said East St. Louis coach Darren Sunkett. “Jigg is an outstanding running back. He goes in week to week and prepares himself mentally and physically to get the job done for his teammates. It was evident today. He made some great runs when we needed to get our offense on track.”
East St. Louis struggled to get things going against the Lancers in the first half Saturday. On non-scoring plays, the Flyers averaged less than 4 yards per snap. But, Brown broke off touchdown runs of 69, 17 and 60 yards to help his team to a halftime advantage.
“Coach Sunk did a great job with the play-calling today, and credit to the O-line because they made it happen for me,” Brown said. “Without them, nothing we did out here today would have been possible.”
A 5-yard pass from quarterback Christian Perez to Lawaun Powell Jr. with eight seconds left in the second quarter helped some, too.
East had scored touchdowns on an interception return by Tyreke Kerley on the first play of the game and on touchdown passes from Kienen Waller to his brother, Freddie Waller, and DeCarlos Johnson. The Lancers trailed 28-18 and thought they could narrow the gap with the first possession of the second half.
But Powell’s touchdown reception turned a 10-point Flyers lead into an 18-point advantage.
“If we can keep them out at the end of the first half and put something up with our first possession in the second half, it’s a very different game,” said East coach Kris Stephens.
Instead, the second half opened with a three-and-out for the Lancers and a blocked punt that set up Brown for his fourth score of the afternoon — and the rest of the game off.
Our running game has not suffered. Jigg is an outstanding running back. ... It was evident today. He made some great runs when we needed to get our offense on track.
Darren Sunkett, East St. Louis head coach
The Flyers blocked three punts during the game, two of which were returned for touchdowns by Oliver McDowell and Antonio Johnson.
Sunkett otherwise gave high marks to the Lancers’ defense.
“Our special teams gave us an outstanding performance,” he said. “Belleville East put in a good defensive performance, I thought, especially in the first half. They took it to our guys and made us adjust the chin straps and get to work.
“I’m proud of the way our guys responded to the way they attacked us.”
Perez finished the game 11 of 21 for 147 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Powell led East Side with five catches for 89 yards.
For East, Waller was 16 of 40 with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He also led the Lancers with 36 yards rushing on three attempts.
East St. Louis, 3-1 and ranked No. 2 in Illinois Class 7A, next plays Collinsville at home Friday. East (1-3) is on the road at O’Fallon.