Top-ranked in the Associated Press class 7A state football poll and with a share of the Southwestern Conference championship wrapped up, it would be easy for the East St. Louis Flyers to look ahead to the upcoming IHSA playoffs.
But looking to end a perfect regular season, the Flyers attention is squarely on taking on a surging O’Fallon squad on Friday at O’Fallon High School.
“This football team has done a good job of staying focused all season. Right now, we’re focused on playing a pretty good O’Fallon football team and winning the Southwestern Conference title outright,” Flyers coach Darren Sunkett said. “Plus, we didn’t get a chance to play them last year so the kids are looking forward to playing them this year.
“We break the season into quarters and we’re almost at the end of this quarter. We’re not looking to the playoffs until after Friday night. After that and when the pairings are announced on Saturday, then we’ll starting preparing for our first round opponent on Sunday.’’
East St. Louis will take on an O’Fallon team which at 5-3 and with 38 playoff points heading into the final week of the regular season, has all but clinched a berth in the Class 8A playoffs. A win over one of the state’s elite programs would leave no doubt.
The game will match two of the top offenses in the SWC. O’Fallon, led by senior running back Mason Hewitt, has won four games in a row, scoring 192 points during that stretch. Hewitt has rushed for over 500 yards the last two weeks, including a 346 yard outburst last week against Belleville East.
But O’Fallon coach Brandon Joggerst knows his team faces a much tougher challenge against the Flyers.
“I wish I knew how to slow them down. Nobody has done that very well all year,’’ Joggerst said of East St. Louis. “You’ve got to be able to create some turnovers and you need a few breaks to go your way. But most of all, you have to find a way to keep their offense off the field.’’
Friday’s Game: East St. Louis (8-0, 6-0) at O’Fallon (5-3, 4-2), 7 p.m.
Last Meeting: O’Fallon defeated East St. Louis 2-0 by forfeit last year do to the East St. Louis Teachers Strike. East St. Louis defeated O’Fallon 55-10 at O’Fallon two years ago.
Rankings: East St. Louis is ranked first in the Associated Press Class 7A state football poll; O’Fallon is unranked.
Last Week: East St. Louis defeated Collinsville 60-0; O’Fallon defeated Belleville East 70-28
Scouting East St. Louis: Perhaps somewhat overlooked because of an offensive unit featuring NCAA Division I recruits in wide receiver Jeff Thomas (27 receptions, 553 yards, 6TD’s) and quarterback Reyondus Estes (84 of 153 for 1,481 yards and 12TD’s) along with running back Jarrell Anderson (129 carries, 746 yards, 12TD’s), the Flyers defense has been nothing short of sensational during the SWC season. The Flyers ‘d’ pitched its fourth shutout in the last five weeks in a 60-0 blanking of Collinsville last week. East St. Louis has allowed only 23 points in six SWC games this season. All state linebacker James Knight (81) is the catalyst on a gifted East St. Louis defensive unit which also features LaMontre’ Harvey (69 tackles), Terrion Williams (68), Ken Dixon (55) and Tahler Cook (52) with more than 50 tackles.
“Watching film, they (East St. Louis) don’t have any noticeable weaknesses,’’ Joggerst said. “They are big, quick and strong on both the defensive and offensive sides of the football. They’ve got a very good running game, their receivers are some of the best around and their quarterback has a strong arm and the ability to beat you with his running ability. They are a very complete football team.
Scouting O’Fallon: Although the Panthers defense hasn’t been as consistent as Joggerst would like, O’Fallon’s offense has been among the best in the St. Louis area since a 1-3 start. With quarterback Christian Perez (90 of 181 for 1,451 yards and 16 TD”s) and running back Mason Hewitt (205 carries, 1,608 yards, 8TD’s) leading the way, the Panthers have rolled up 192 points in the last four weeks, including a 70-point explosion last week in a win over Belleville East.
“They (O’Fallon) have a quality running game, but they also have the ability to put the ball in air and move the football that way as well,’’ Sunkett said. “They can mix it up with the run and pass and can be effective with both.’’
Wide receivers Ronald Anthony (26 catches, 474 yards, TD) anfd Darryl Cobb Jr. (21 catches, 361 yards, TDs) are two of four Panthers who have caught passes for more than 200 yards.
Zaine Roe (70 tackles, 58 solos) leads the Panthers defense.