After taking a hiatus for a year, the East St. Louis City of Champions Foundation ‘City of Champions’ Classic is back. And so is Lombard Montini.
Five time state champions and the Class 5A state runnerup a year ago, Montini will take on host East St. Louis in the marquee game when the ‘15 event takes place on Sept. 5 at Clyde Jordan Stadium in East St. Louis.
The brainchild of former East St. Louis and University of Illinois standouts Julyon Brown and Dana Howard, this will be the fifth City of Champions Classic. The day of high school football has attracted such powers as Chicago St. Rita, Chicago Smmon, Edwardsville, Montini, Memphis (Tenn.) Whitehaven and Jefferson City, Mo. as well as East St. Louis in the past.
But after taking last year because of a scheduling conflict, Brown said there will be two games in ‘15. St. Louis schools Gateway Tech and Confluence Academy will play at 3 p.m., followed by the East St. Louis-Montini battle at 6 p.m.
“We’re happy and excited to be back in ‘15. The reason we didn’t have it last year was because East St. Louis had a scheduling conflict and couldn’t compete. But we feel very good about the four teams we have coming in this year,’’ Brown said recently. “The plan is to start slow this year then come back next year with what people are used to seeing and that’s three or four games.
“Another reason is that alot of the teams we wanted were in the second year of their contracts with other schools for games and couldn’t get out of them. We’ve got a committment from (Belleville) West for next year and we’re working on several others like (Indianapolis) Cathedral and some others through players Dana (Howard) and I played with in college.’’
The first game of the day will pit two up and coming programs. Gateway, which features a high-powered offense, finished 7-5 a year ago, while Confluence Academy, still a fairly new program in the St. Louis area, was 3-7 in’14.
“I think it should be a pretty good game between two evenly matched teams,’’ Brown said. “I don’t know much about Confluence except that I hear they may haveve two or three (NCAA) Division I recruits. Gateway is always solid and this summer they reached the final of a 7-on-7 tournament where it lost to East St.. Louis.’’
But the game everyone will come to see will be Montini and East St. Louis. Two of the top programs — in any class — in the state, Montini and the Flyers have combined for 64 playoff appearances and 12 state championships.
Montini has wins the last two years against the Flyers. At the ‘12 City of Champions Classic, Montini drubbed East St. Louis 34-6. The Flyers, who reached the Class 6A quarterfinals a year ago where they lost to Peoria Notre Dame, then traveled to suburban Lombard last year where it dropped a 46-32 decision.
“The first year down here, they (Montini) handed it to us pretty good. Last year we played them much tougher and we actually had a chance to win the football game. We just made some mistakes at costly times,’’ Brown said. “When you talk about Montini you are talking about one of the elite programs in the state.
“East St. Louis should also have a good team. I know coach (Darren) Sunkett has a very good quarterback in (Reyondus) Estes and he’s got the all-state wide out (receiver) in Jeff Thomas. I saw him at the Rivals.com camp this summer and he put on quite a performance. He’s got to be the top wide receiver in this (Midwest) area and may be among the best in the nation. I didn’t realize he was that fast.
Tickets for the City of Champions Classic will go on sale soon and will be priced at $8 in advance and $10 at the gate.
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at email@example.com or 618-239-2661.