If Saturday was any indication, new East St. Louis quarterback Christian Perez will fit comfortably into the Flyers’ latest quick-strike offense.
Perez, a senior who transferred from O’Fallon, completed 20 of 26 passes for 332 yards and five touchdowns as the defending state-champion Flyers outscored Providence Catholic 40-28 at Clyde C. Jordan Stadium.
Perez’s performance helped the Flyers overcome a first-play knee injury to senior tailback Jarrell Anderson and a porous defense that greatly displeased coach Darren Sunkett.
“I think it was really good,” Perez said of his debut. “I had a lot of guys around me making plays. I just came out and listened to Coach Sunkett. He was calling all the right plays. It was a downer (losing Anderson), but I talked to Coach, and he told me to step up, and that’s what I did. I stepped up for my team.
“We feel good, but at the same time, I still think we can do better. We had a lot of penalties. We want to get rid of those penalties and have a perfect game on offense.”
Perez was able to spread the wealth, connecting with three different receivers on his touchdown throws. Sophomore Lawaun Powell Jr. had TD catches of 53, 15 and 5 yards, while senior Eric Rogers II had one for 22 yards, and senior Perez Hall had one for 13 yards.
Sunkett was impressed.
“Christian Perez did an outstanding job,” Sunkett said. “He made some outstanding throws and some great reads. He looked very comfortable. He definitely adapted to our offense. He did a pretty good job today, and he can only get better.”
The Celtics, who lost 34-3 to East St. Louis in their season opener last year, took a 21-18 advantage on a 66-yard TD pass from senior Caden Kalinowski to senior Nick Planeta with 7:54 left in the third quarter.
But senior Jigg Brown (26 carries, 80 yards) put the Flyers ahead to stay at 26-21 with an 11-yard TD run, and Perez stretched the margin to 34-21 with his 5-yard TD throw to Powell.
Providence closed to within 34-28 on a 2-yard TD pass from Kalinowski to junior De’whon Gavin, but the Flyers sealed it on Perez’s 15-yard TD throw to Powell with 1:38 left.
Celtics coach Mark Coglianese said Perez was a handful.
“We didn’t know what we were going to get out of him,” he said. “We thought maybe they would shy away from the pass. But he stepped up, even early on. He completed a lot of hitches. He played very well.”
Sunkett said the extent of Anderson’s injury will be determined Monday. Anderson raced for 65 yards on the first play from scrimmage, then fumbled and was assisted off the field.
Anderson had 1,477 yards and 21 touchdowns last season.
“It’s some type of knee injury,” Sunkett said. “We didn’t have a doctor on hand to let us know what’s going. We’ll get him to the doctor first thing on Monday and get this thing figured out. The good thing is there’s not a lot of swelling, and he was able to put weight on it. That’s a positive for us.”
One rumor circulating the field was that Anderson suffered a torn ACL.
“I can’t guess,” Sunkett said. “It could be. We’ll pray that it’s not. Hopefully, he can get back, and we can get this thing back on track.”
David Wilhelm: @DavidMWilhelm