East St. Louis football coach Darren Sunkett will be the first to admit that he doesn’t know very much about the Villa Park Willowbrook Warriors.
Sunkett knows that the Warriors, a member of the West Suburban Gold Conference, are 8-3 and have upset two teams with higher seeds in the first two weeks of the Class 7A playoffs. The Flyers coach also knows that for his team to secure its first trip to the state semifinals in three years, it must secure a win at Willowbrook High School on Saturday afternoon.
“At this stage of the season, when you reach the state quarterfinals. you are a good football team,” Sunkett said. “All I know about them is what I see on film. They are good enough to be in the playoffs and they are good enough to be in the quarterfinals. We have a lot of respect for them.
‘We are going to prepare for them like we prepare for everyone else. We are going to go out and play our butts off.”
The highest remaining seed in the Class 7A bracket following the loss of top-seed Bradley-Bourbonnais last week, the second-seeded Flyers (11-0) made the 280-mile trek north to the western suburbs on Friday and will take on the Warriors in Villa Park on Saturday beginning at 2 p.m.
Willowbrook is the 23rd seed and is the second-lowest seed remaining in what has turned out to be a wide open Class 7A bracket. Of the top eight seeds before the playoffs, only four remain.
The Flyers, champions of the Southwestern Conference, needed a touchdown pass in the closing seconds from quarterback Reyondous Estes to All-American wide receiver Jeff Thomas to defeat Glenbard North 32-28 last week. The Warriors upset seventh-seeded Glenbrook North 49-21 in week two of the postseason.
Although playing in a very good conference, Willowbrook probably hasn’t faced a team with the speed, size and athletic ability that the Flyers possess.
“They have some big guys up front but with a team that has a back with over 1,600 yards, you expect them to have good size,’’ Sunkett said. “They also have a balanced offense with a good quarterback who has thrown for a lot of yards and touchdowns. It’s just a matter of us being in the right position and lined up properly. If we do that we should be fine.”
Temperatures at game time Saturday are expected to be in the low 50’s with little chance for rain in the Chicago area.
‘That is perfect football weather,” Sunkett said. “We’re ready to go. All the work and the preparation to get ready for this week is over. It’s been a great week of practice and the kids are excited. All we have to do now is go out and play a solid football game.
“In the playoffs it comes down to execution, not turning the football over and having as a few penalties as possible. The team that does those things usually wins the football game.”
EAST ST. LOUIS AT WILLOWBROOK
Kickoff: 2 p.m. Saturday at Willowbrook High School
Last Week: East St. Louis defeated No. 15 Glenbard North 32-28; Willowbrook defeated No. 7 Glenbrook North 49-21
Next Week: The winner advances to the Class 7A semifinal game against either No. 3 Rolling Meadows (11-0) or No. 11 Lisle Benet Academy (9-2) who are playing at 6 p.m. on Saturday.