Thanks to three touchdown passes by senior quarterback Reyondous Estes and another stellar defensive effort, the East St. Louis Flyers finished off a perfect regular season Friday.
With pinpoint accuracy, Estes connected with All-American wide receiver Jeff Thomas on an 8-yard touchdown pass late in the first half and added scoring passes of 11 yards to Charlando Robinson and 20 yards to Lawann Powell Jr. as the Flyers wrapped up the Southwestern Conference title with a 46-14 win over the Panthers.
East St. Louis, which took a 6-0 lead with just over four minutes gone in the game on a 25-yard return of a blocked punt by Eric Owens, also got touchdown runs from Jarrell Anderson and Kevin Brown and a 35-yard interception return for a score by Markevion Bell as it steadily pulled away from the overmatched Panthers.
East St. Louis, ranked first in the Class 7A state poll, ends the regular season at 9-0 and like all of the other postseason-bound teams in Illinois will now wait until Saturday night to find out who its first round opponent will be. O’Fallon (5-4) will be in the Class 8A bracket.
“I just told the kids that everyone is 0-0 now. It’s a whole new season,” a smiling East St. Louis coach Darren Sunkett said following the game. “But there is a lot to smile about tonight.
“These kids have done everything we’ve asked of them from the time we started working this summer. They’ve put their hearts into helping this football team be successful and worked very hard to make sure we accomplished our goals. The coaching staff and myself, we’re just so proud of this football team.”
O’Fallon, led by senior running back Mason Hewitt, entered the game on a four-game winning streak. With Hewitt running for over 500 yards in the past two weeks, a large Panthers home crowd had hopes of an upset Friday.
Those hopes took a big blow when Bell’s return of a blocked punt was followed five minutes later by a 3-yard touchdown run by Anderson which put East St. Louis up 12-0 with 3 minutes, 38 seconds still remaining in the first quarter.
Hewitt, held in check for most of the night by a swarming Flyers defense led by linebacker James Knight, had runs of 22 and 15 yards on O’Fallon’s next possession, which ended on a 4-yard touchdown run by Richard Cosey that cut the Flyers lead to 12-7 late in the opening period.
But O’Fallon would get no closer.