High School Football

East St. Louis dominant in ‘Battle for the Bell’

There have been many memorable performances from the time East St. Louis and Belleville Township High School first stepped on the football field for their intitial meeting a century ago.

But on a warm late fall September night, the East St. Louis tandem of Perez Hall and all-American Jeff Thomas gave performances for the ages at Clyde Jordan Stadium and the Flyers regained possession of “The Bell.”

Hall had punt returns of 71 and 38 yards for touchdowns and Thomas hauled in pair of touchdown passes as East St. Louis handed Belleville West a 52-0 shellacking in a Southwestern Conference game Friday.

Top-ranked in the Class 7A state poll, the Flyers (5-0, 3-0) led 8-0 after one quarter and then put the game away with a 28-point splurge over the final 10 minutes, 33 seconds of the second quarter to take a 36-0 lead at halftime.

“They (West) had beaten us twice in a row and so we wanted to win this game very much tonight,” Thomas said. “We were ready to play and it’s the same thing each week. Edwardsville has beaten us two straight years as well. We went to end that streak as well.”

The Flyers’ win and Edwardsville’s win over Belleville East on Friday sets up a meeting of the undefeated powers next Friday at Edwardsville.

But on this night, East St. Louis won possession of the Alton Southern Bell — the traveling trophy which goes annually to the winner of the East St. Louis-Belleville West game.

Senior quarterback Reyondous Estes had three touchdown passes and threw for over 260 yards for the Flyers.

From Thomas to Hall to a defensive unit which has blanked Granite City and now Belleville West in two straight weeks and allowed only six points in its last 10 quarters, the Flyers were in top form.

“I’m very pleased. I thought we came out and executed well on all areas of the football game,” Flyers coach Darren Sunkett said. “This was a breakout night for Perez. He thrilled the crowd and gave us a big lift with his play tonight. Jeff also had a pretty good night. He’s finally healthy and he was able to make several big plays. It was a good team effort.”

Key sequence

Thomas, whose 75-yard reception on the Flyers second play from scrimmage, set up the first score of the night — a 15-yard touchdown pass from Estes to James Knight with 8:06 left in the first quarter.

But when Hall took a punt at the Maroons 38-yard line and darted in for the score with 10:33 left in the second period, the Flyers were in control with a 16-0 lead.

West (2-3, 2-1) had a couple of chances early in the game. On their first possession, West moved inside the Flyers 25-yard line before turning the ball over on downs. Following the 10-yard touchdown pass from Estes to Knight, the Maroons had the ball inside the 40-yard line but came up short again.

But in reality it may not have mattered. On this night, the Flyers were just too good.

“They are a good football team,” West coach Cameron Pettus said of East St. Louis. “We had a couple of chances early in the game that we didn’t convert on.”

Junior Jarrell Anderson made it 24-0 on a 12-yard run with 5:09 left in the first half and less than two minutes later, Charlando Robinson took a pass out in the flat and mowed over Maroons defenders on a 59-yard scoring pass from Estes.

But it was Hall who stole the show with just over two minutes remaining. Taking the punt on the left side of the field, he started right, then did a complete circle into the open and sprinted 71 yards for the score.

Thomas added 59 and 29-yard touchdown receptions to complete the Flyers scoring. Both receptions came in the second half.