High School Football

East St. Louis football classic stacked with next-level talent

East St. Louis Flyers’ Eric Owens and Mckinnley Whitehead celebrate a score in last season’s Gateway Scholars Football Classic.
East St. Louis Flyers’ Eric Owens and Mckinnley Whitehead celebrate a score in last season’s Gateway Scholars Football Classic. tvizer@bnd.com

The East St. Louis Flyers will take on Evangel Christian Academy of Shreveport, La., in the marquee game of the second annual Gateway Scholars Football Classic on Sept. 2 at Clyde Jordan Stadium.

Formerly the City of Champions Classic, last year’s game was highlighted by the Flyers’ score in the final 20 seconds for a 32-28 win over St. Louis power Christian Brothers College High School. This year’s game between the defending Class 7A state champions and an 11-time Louisiana state champion shapes up to be another battle. Game time is 7 p.m.

“The ESTL-CBC game was a true classic and one people who were lucky enough to witness talked about for a long time,” East St. Louis Athletic Director Leonard Manley said Wednesday.

“The people with the City of Champions Classic did a tremendous job in running a great event, and we’re trying to make even bigger and better. We were very happy with how well the Gateway Scholars Classic went last year, and we’re hoping for an even better one this year. Our hope is to keep growing and expanding this event as the years go on.”

East St. Louis finished 14-0 last season. Evangel Christian was 12-2. The Eagles won five state championships in six years from 2001-2006.

Both teams feature several future NCAA players. East St. Louis is led by senior quarterback and Navy recruit Christian Perez, running back Jarrell Anderson and linebacker Eric Owens Jr.

Evangel has three of the top 25 college recruits in Louisiana in defensive tackle Davin Cotton, inside linebacker Micah Baskerville and safety ArDarius Washington. All three have committed to LSU.

The three game Gateway Scholars Classic begins at 1 p.m. when Cahokia takes on Camden (N.J.) High School. The Comanches are coached by former NFL offensive lineman and former East St. Louis assistant coach John Clay. Belleville West will take on Erial (N.J.) Timber Creek Regional High School in the middle game beginning at 4 p.m.

Camden, which is in the hometown of East St. Louis coach Darren Sunkett, is coming off a 3-7 season in 2016. The Panthers were a combined 28-5 the previous three seasons. Cahokia is looking for a winning season after recording three straight 4-5 records.

Tickets are $10 and are available at East St. Louis, Cahokia and Belleville West high schools. Tickets are good for all three games, but there will be no readmission. People who leave the stadium will have to purchase another ticket if they wish to return.

Timber Creek finished 12-0 last season, while Belleville West made its fifth straight postseason appearance last year, finishing 5-5.

Parking is $5, and tailgating is available in the lot/field, located on the north end of the stadium. The price to tailgate is $25 and is good for the whole day. Manley said people wishing to work as vendors should call 618-580-5026 before Aug. 20.