When things get dicey for the East St. Louis football squad, Flyers coach Darren Sunkett turns to their rock — senior running back DeMonta Witherspoon.
Witherspoon came up big for the Flyers on Friday night as he scored three rushing touchdown and hauled in another from senior quarterback Tyler Macon to help East St. Louis celebrate a 43-21 Senior Night victory over Southwestern Conference foe Edwardsville at Clyde Jordan Memorial Stadium in East St. Louis.
Witherspoon was thrilled to help his team win on Senior Night.
“It’s real fun (to win on Senior Night),” Witherspoon said. “I’ve been here for three years and you have to go out with a bang.”
East St. Louis (6-0 overall, 3-0 in the SWC) scored just 1 minute, 6 seconds in when Macon hit Dominic Lovett with a dazzling 69-yard catch and run pass for a quick 7-0 lead.
Edwardsville (4-2, 2-1) responded two series later on a 5-yard keeper run by junior quarterback Ryan Hampton to tie it 7-7.
Just before the end of the first quarter, Witherspoon scored a 10-yard run to push the Flyers lead to 13-7. The point after kick failed.
The Tigers responded, taking a 14-13 lead early in the second quarter, as Hampton hit junior tight end Mason Ahlers for a 62-yard touchdown pass.
The Flyers had a firm answer, as Witherspoon hauled in a 38-yard touchdown pass from Macon and Macon finished off another drive with a 6-yard scoring run and a two-point conversion pass to Lovett, giving the Flyers a commanding 27-14 lead at the half.
Both teams struggled to move the ball in the third quarter as Sunkett saw his offense struggle due to self inflicted mistakes.
“I thought everything we had done was self-inflicted wounds,” Sunkett said. “We just didn’t execute at certain times, but it was nothing they did, it was all us. It was a big day for us. Everybody was excited about today and I thought when we executed, you saw the results and they’ve got a good team.”
Edwardsville challenged the Flyers again early in the fourth quarter when Hampton scored on a 1-yard run, cutting the lead to 27-21 with 11 minutes left.
Once again, East St. Louis had an answer, as Witherspoon posted an 8-yard touchdown run.
“It was pretty big to get the touchdown (there),” Witherspoon said. “We tried to do it early, but we had to come back in the second half and execute our offense.”
Witherspoon, who ran for 161 yards on 16 carries, finished off his big Senior Night performance with his fourth and final touchdown on a 41-yard romp.
“I think they performed and we came out strong and we struggled a bit because their offense ran some things we hadn’t seen. But our defense made some adjustments and we slowed that part of their offense down,” Sunkett said.
Macon threw for 354 passing with two touchdowns and one interception. Lovett led East St. Louis’ receiving corps with six catches for 94 yards.
The Flyers defense was active all night, forcing two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
Despite the outcome, Edwardsville coach Matt Martin saw several positives.
“There’s positives, definitely positives and we’re teachers and we’re here to teach,” Martin said. “They can watch film and look at themselves on film honestly and see what they need to fix and they can be proud of themselves and have confidence that they went against one of the better players in state. They’re (East St. Louis) pretty good.”
Both teams resume SWC next week, as the Flyers visit O’Fallon at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12, and Edwardsville entertains Belleville West at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11.