For years the dominant football program in the Southwestern Conference, the East St. Louis Flyers will enter Clyde Jordan Stadium on Saturday battle tested and once again ranked in the latest Class 7A state football poll.
Off to its first 5-0 start since the 2013 season, meanwhile, Belleville West enters the showdown with a high-octane offense which has scored 40 or more points in four of its five games. Coach Cameron Pettus’ team has outscored its opponents 220-75 and, with the exception of a 28-10 win at Fort Zumwalt West in week three, hasn’t really been pushed all year.
The Maroons expect to be pushed by the No. 4 Flyers Saturday.
“East St. Louis is a very good football team and coach (Darren) Sunkett and his staff do a great job of getting their team ready to play. But we’re looking forward to going down there and seeing how we can do,’’ Pettus said. “We feel our schedule has prepared us well and we’ll be ready to go.
“Fort Zumwalt was a good test for us and Riverview Gardens, Alton and Granite City with (quarterback) Freddy Edwards, all challenge you with their speed..’’
West (2-0 in the SWC) has been led by junior quarterback Jack McCloskey, who has thrown for 998 yards and 20 touchdown passes. Wide receivers Will Lanxon and Dominic Lovett have combined for 39 catches and more than 800 yards while running back DJ Johnson, running behind a close-knit offensive line, has 638 yards and six scores this season.
West also has had some success against the Flyers in the past few years, splitting the last four meetings. West defeated East St. Louis 29-28 in 2014 and 35-26 in 2015. The Flyers, who enter the contest on a 17-game SWC winning streak, have won the last two meetings.
The Flyers are 4-1 and lead the SWC with a 3-0 record. The Flyers have posted lopsided wins over Belleville East and Collinsville, they also opened the season with a 52-38 loss at national power Detroit KIng then were pushed to the limit in a 32-26 win over St. Louis Trinity and 34-21 win at Edwardsville.
Like West, the Flyers are led by a talented young quarterback in sophomore Tyler Macon, who is as effective on the ground as through the air. Macon has thrown for 851 yards and 10 touchdowns while adding 469 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.
Junior running back DeMonta Witherspoon has rushed for 516 yards and nine touchdowns while junior wide receivers Lawaun Powell Jr. (12 receptions, 318 yards, 4 TDs) and Antonio Johnson (12 catches, 174 yards, 2 TDs) anchor a deep and athletic group of skilled position players.
While Pettus knows the winner of the game will have the inside track on the conference championship, he knows that win or lose, Saturday, there is still plenty of work to do.
“I think it should be a great high school football game,’’ Pettus said. “East St. Louis is a very good football and we’ve got a good football team as well. But there is still a lot of work to do.
“The keys are executing on both sides of the football and not turning it over.’’
Game time is set for 1 p.m.
Midgets vs. the Eagles
Two long time rivals will meet with first place in the Cahokia Conference on the line when Freeburg (4-1) visits Columbia (5-0) Friday.
With both teams currently undefeated in three league games, thie winner will be the frontrunner for the title with just two conference games remaining.
Both the Midgets and Eagles rely on a balanced offensive attack with a strong defense.
Freeburg is led by senior quarterback Cal Clossen (53-of-92, 943 yards, 13 TDs) and running back Tanner Little (794 yards, 8 TDs). The Midgets, who have outscored their five opponents 191-111, also have one of the top athletes in the league in senior wide receiver Brendan Meng (17 receptions, 498 yards, 8 TDs).
Columbia, which is ranked fourth in the Class 4A state poll this week, also has its share of speed. The Eagles present double trouble in the backfield with junior Donovan Bieber (440 yards, 4 TDs) and Ronnie Hunsaker (348 yards, 8 TDs). Junior quarterback Nic Horner effectively utilizes both his legs and arm to move his offense.
Columbia, which has won the last seven games between the two teams, can clinch a playoff spot with a win on Friday. Freeburg, with a victory, will become playoff eligible.
Former SWC rivals
Two longtime rivals in the Southwestern Conference, Collinsville (2-3) and Granite City (2-3) will battle to get back to the .500 mark and stay in playoff contention when they meet Friday.
Granite City is competing as an independent after leaving the SWC in all sports following the 2017-18 school year. The Warriors, led by sensational junior quarterback Freddy Edwards, fell to Class 7A power Belleville West 52-7 last week, but have outscored their five opponents 164-163. Edwards, one of the top college prospects in the St. Louis area, has accounted for over 1,300 yards of total offense and 15 touchdowns this season.
Collinsville is leaving the SWC in football after this season, but will continue to compete in the league in every other sport. The Kahoks fell to 2-3 after dropping a 74-13 game to East St. Louis a week ago. They defeated O’Fallon 38-28 in week four.
Quarterback Chris Chi (643 yards, 7 TD passes) has been solid while running back Jayden Nabors has rushed for 357 yards and a pair of scores.
No losses, and no respect
The Madison Trojans return to the gridiron a year ago after a 30-year hiatus turned out to be a huge success as coach Mike Hill’s football team ended its season with a 6-4 record and a berth in the Class 1A playoffs.
Year No. 2 has been even better for the Trojans. With its 36-14 win over Nokomis last week, the Trojans improved to 5-0 and became playoff eligible. A win this week at Pecatonica (1-4), would clinch the Trojans second straight trip to the postseason.
Hill, a longtime assistant coach before getting the job of taking over at Madsion, has pushed the Trojans on both sides of the line. In five games, the Madison defense has allowed only 28 points and has three shutouts (including one forfeit).
Freshman quarterback Anthony Sillas has directed an offense that has scored 135 points and is averaging 27 points per contest. But the Trojans finished just out of the top 10 in the Class 1A state football poll, ranked 11th with 12 points in voting by sportswriters throughout the state.
The end of two playoff droughts?
Neither the Mascoutah Indians or Cahokia Comanches have been in the playoffs since the 2009 season. Wins by both teams this week will go a long way towards ending those droughts.
Both 4-1 for the season, the Comanches and Indians will be playoff eligible with wins and need to win just two of their final four games to have the required six victories to gain automatic berths in the playoffs.
While Mascoutah is led by junior running back Devin Wills, the Indians also feature a strong and balanced offensive attack along with a defense that has allowed just 55 points during its current four game winning streak. The Indians have a road game at Mississippi Valley Conference rival Triad on Friday then will host Civic Memorial on Oct. 5.
Cahokia, which is coached by former Missouri Tigers and NFL lineman John Clay, last made a postseason appearance in the 2009 Class 5A playoffs, where it dropped a second-round game at Joliet Catholic.
Led by versatile quarterback Malik Shaw, the Comanches took command of the South Seven Conference race last week with a win over previously undefeated Carbondale. With Shaw (1,100 yards total offense) leading the rejuvenated offense, Cahokia is ranked 10th in the Class 4A state poll this week..
Cahokia will host Centralia on Friday then travels to Mount Vernon on Oct. 5.