East St. Louis junior running back Jarrell Anderson walked of the field at Clyde Jordan Stadium on Saturday night with a slight limp.
His number had been called 40 times in the Flyers’ 32-28 win over St. Louis’ Christian Brothers College High School, leaving him with a sore knee. Still, the 5-foot-11, 205-pound Anderson pounded out 241 rushing yards and three touchdowns against a Cadets, who entered the contest as the top-ranked Class 6A football team in Missouri.
“I think the most carries I had in a game was like 32 to 35, something like that,” Anderson said. “I was tired and I was sore all over. But we won the game. This was a game everybody had been wanting to see for a while now. My teammates were all working hard and I didn’t want to let them down.”
Playing in front of more than 8,000 fans in a game featuring the top two high school football teams in the area, Anderson put a fitting end to the three-game Gateway Scholars Football Classic when he scored on a 10-yard run with under 30 seconds remaining to give East St. Louis the win.
I honestly didn’t realize he had 40 carries. But when teams are double and triple teaming Jeff, its going to open things up for our other receivers and our running backs.
Darren Sunkett, East St. Louis head football coach
Anderson’s achievement is even more impressive when considering that he was wearing a Flyers uniform for just the second time after transferring from Belleville West following the 2015-16 school year.
Also a member of one of the top track and field teams in the Southwestern Conference while at Belleville West during his freshman and sophomore years, Anderson was a key member of the Maroons football squad last season. With more than 200 yards and a pair of touchdowns, he was the third leading running back with the Maroons, who reached postseason and finished with a 5-5 record.
On Saturday, he surpassed both those numbers.
“I like East St. Louis. With the coaches and teachers, I like my support system I have here,” Anderson said. “Everybody, all my teammates, our goal is to win the state championship. We feel like we can and we’re doing everything we can in the classroom, on the practice field, to try and make sure that happens.”
At least part of Anderson’s success against CBC, which won the Missouri Class 6A state title in 2014 and entered the game 29-1 in its last 30 games, was the Cadets’ focus on All-American wide receiver Jeff Thomas. A top national college recruit, Thomas was held to five catches for 44 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter.
I like East St. Louis. With the coaches and teachers, I like my support system I have here. Everybody, all my teammates, our goal is to win the state championship.
Jarrell Anderson, East St. Louis junior running back
But the double and triple teaming of Thomas left the Cadets vulnerable elsewhere.
“I honestly didn’t realize he had 40 carries. But when teams are double and triple teaming Jeff, its going to open things up for our other receivers and our running backs,” East St. Louis coach Darren Sunkett said. “The offensive line did a great job and Jarrell had a big night running the football.
“Jarrell has adjusted very well since he’s been here. He’s a very good kid who has just come home. He was staying down here (East St. Louis) all the time anyway.”
CBC (2-1) led 28-24 following a touchdown run by Justin Williams with six minutes left. But the Flyers responded. East St. Louis moved inside the Cadets 20-yard line with time running down.
But when Anderson went down with his injured knee, things looked a little bleak for the Flyers,
“I planted my my foot and I felt my knee buckle a little bit. It really hurt when I put weight on it,” Anderson said. “But when I got to the sideline the trainer rubbed it a little bit and it started to feel a little better.”
Anderson was out of the game for three plays but returned to pick up the needed yardage on a fourth down play. On the next play, Anderson scored the winning touchdown.
“The fourth-down play? I thought I had it by a yard, but when the officials spotted it, it was close, really close. I think I made it by an inch, but I made it,” Anderson said. “Take nothing away from them because they were a good football team. We made some mistakes but we played well.
“The offensive line was great. The coaches are hard on those guys sometimes, but when they need to step up like they did tonight, they always do.”