After watching his Lincoln-Way West football team fall to top-ranked East St. Louis on Saturday in a first-round Class 7A game, Warriors coach Dave Ernst was asked to compare the Flyers to other top suburban football programs.
Ernst didn’t hesitate.
“Before today I thought (Homewood-Flossmoor) was the best team I’ve seen and best we’ve played. But after today, I would say that East St. Louis is right with them,” Ernst said. “That’s a very good football team.”
Scoring in almost every way imaginable, the undefeated and top-ranked Flyers did little to disprove Ernst’s opinion of them at Clyde Jordan Stadium. Senior quarterback Reyondous Estes threw two touchdown passes and senior All-American Jeff Thomas returned a punt 74 yards for a touchdown as part of the Flyers’ 44-7 opening-round victory.
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Trailing the Warriors (5-5) 7-6 midway through the second quarter, Estes connected with James Knight on a 63-yard scoring pass and Jarrell Anderson on a 35-yard scoring strike two minutes apart to take a 20-7 halftime lead.
Thomas then thrilled a large hometown crowd with a 74-punt return for a score with 10:07 left in the third quarter as the Flyers (10-0) broke the game open.
Estes added a two-yard scoring run, while Tahler Cook returned an intercepted pass 49 yards and LaMontre’ Harvey returned a fumble 20 yards for the Flyers, who will host Glenbard North in a second round game on Nov. 5.
Glenbard North defeated Pekin 49-0 on Friday.
Displaying the form which has made them the top Class 7A team in the state all year, the Flyers’ performance was impressive to most. But coach Darren Sunkett said his team still has things to clean up.
“I’m pleased that we were able to get the ‘W’ and that we get to move on to the next round. But on both sides of the football I thought we were sloppy,” Sunkett said. “Our first four possessions we had terrible field position. Once we were able to get out of there we were able to move the football and put some points on the scoreboard.
“But moving forward we need to clean up some things on both sides of the football. But that’s on the coaching staff. That’s on me. We’ll work on those things this week.”
The Warriors scored on a 14-yard scoring pass from quarterback Cal Pohrte to Kevin Davis early in the second quarter to take a 7-6 lead. Even after the Flyers went ahead 20-7 on Estes two touchdown passes, the Warriors still had a chance to stay in the game right before the end of the first half.
But with first-and-goal from the 10 yard line, West failed to cash in.
“If we score then its 20-14 at halftime and we have the momentum,” Ernst said. “Instead, they stop us and Thomas returns a punt 74 yards for a touchdown two minutes into the second half. We had our chances.”