East St. Louis football cruises to first-round playoff victory
East St. Louis quarterback Eric Johnson made his playoff debut one to remember Saturday at Clyde Jordan Stadium.
Filling in for injured senior Christian Perez, Johnson threw for 262 yards and four touchdowns as the defending Class 7A state champion Flyers rolled past Libertyville 62-7 in a first-round playoff game.
Showing good mobility and a strong arm, Johnson connected twice with sophomore Lawaun Powell Jr. on scoring plays of 45 and 34 yards to put the Flyers out front 38-0 in the second quarter. He added two more scoring tosses in the second half.
The seventh-seeded Flyers (9-1) coasted into a second-round home game against Buffalo Grove next week. Seeded 10th, Buffalo Grove defeated Belleville West 17-7 on Saturday.
Johnson was in for Perez, who suffered leg injury in the season’s final week. East St. Louis coach Darren Sunkett said he didn’t know when Perez, a U.S. Naval Academy recruit, would be back.
“It’s really a day-to-day situation. But for the time being we’re going with Eric,” Sunkett said. “Eric played a pretty good game today. We just told him to go out and just do the best job that he could, and he did that today.”
Senior Jigg Brown rushed for 139 yards and two touchdowns, and sophomore DeMonta Witherspoon added scoring runs of 6 and 7 yards for the Flyers, who scored on their first five possessions.
All-state defensive lineman Terrion Williams added a 25-yard fumble return for the Flyers, who allowed just one Libertyville first down in the first half.
“I thought this was probably the best we have played all year,” a smiling Sunkett said. “The offensive and defensive lines I thought did a good job of controlling things up front, and we made some plays. I’m very proud of this football team.
“We have faced adversity all year, starting with Week 1 with all of the injuries. But these kids have continued to work hard and just get better each week. It was another very strong effort again today. Now we’ll go back to work on Monday and get ready for another good opponent this coming week.”
Libertyville (5-5) finally dented the scoreboard late in the third quarter when quarterback Gabe Vazamim threw a 20-yard scoring pass to Brendan Cook. But, as coach Mike Jones said, the Flyers had too much firepower for his team to handle.
“They are the defending state champions, and today they really came out and jumped on us quick,” Jones said. “They had their way on both sides of the line of scrimmage. I’ve seen Batavia and a couple of the other top Class 7A teams in the state, and they are in that group as well.
“It will be interesting to see what happens in the next few weeks.”