East St. Louis senior running back Jigg Brown scampered 25 yards for the go-ahead score late in the fourth quarter Saturday, and the Flyers defense made it hold up in a 32-26 win over Belleville West in a Southwestern Conference game.
Ranked second in the Class 7A state poll, East St. Louis (5-1, 4-0) led 26-12 late in the third quarter before West (4-2, 3-1) rallied. A touchdown pass on a fake field goal attempt from Will Lanxon to Khari Kollore closed the gap to 26-19 in the third quarter. West then got a big break when it recovered a punt that bounced off a Flyers player inside the East St. Louis 10-yard line midway through the fourth quarter.
On the next play, West senior Kriston Davis scored on a 5-yard run, and after the extra point, the score was tied at 26 with just over seven minutes remaining.
But the defending Class 7A state champion Flyers responded. A major penalty on the ensuing kickoff gave the Flyers good field position. With quarterback Christian Perez completing a pair of passes, the Flyers moved inside the Maroons 30-yard line. With 3:47 left, Brown got around the corner, and with a burst of speed, got by the Maroons defenders into the end zone.
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“We ran the play, but we didn’t hold our blocks. It was open, so we ran it again, and it worked. The line did a great job,” said Brown who finished with 124 yards on 26 carries. “We knew this would be a tough game, and it was. This is a big win, but we’ve got to continue to get better. We may see them (West) again in the playoffs.”
West had two possessions in the final 3 1/2 minutes. But the Maroons turned the ball over on downs on the first chance, and when senior defensive back Cortez Moore intercepted a pass in the final minute, the Flyers were in firm control of the Southwestern Conference — again.
“Defense did a good job. It was a little rough at times, but in the end we made the plays,” East St. Louis coach Darren Sunkett said. “They (Belleville West) tried every trick play in the book ... onside kick, a fake punt, two fake field goals.
“It’s been a long, rough season for us. We’ve had a lot of guys get banged up all year. These guys are resilient. Myself and the other coaches are proud of them. They showed the heart of a champion again today like they have all season.”
West has had more success than most against the Flyers in recent years. West won in both 2014 and 2015 before East St. Louis ran the table with a 14-0 mark and state title a year ago. But Saturday, turnovers and the big plays of the Flyers proved too much for the Maroons to overcome.
“I thought we played hard, and I was proud of the effort,” Maroons coach Cameron Pettus said. “We moved the ball well at times; obviously the turnovers right before the half really hurt. It went from 14-12 to 26-12 in less than a minute.
“But we fought back. We gave ourselves a chance to win the game late in the fourth quarter.”