East St. Louis junior wide receiver Dominic Lovett admits he lights up every time he is in the open field with a clear path to the end zone in front of him.
On Saturday, Lovett and the Flyers lit up the O’Fallon Panthers over and over again.
Lovett hauled in scoring passes of 68 and 73 yards from quarterback Tyler Macon then put the finishing touch on a memorable day with an electrifying 74-yard punt return for a touchdown as East. St. Louis clinched a tie for the Southwestern Conference title with a 51-3 win at O’Fallon High School.
With Macon completing his first 13 pass attempts and throwing for 360 yards in the first half, East St. Louis (7-0, 4-0) led 27-3 at halftime against O’Fallon, which was without junior running back Mason Blakemore..
Blakemore, who has 1,070 yards and 17 touchdowns, was out with an injury.
But like it has been most of the season, East St. Louis’ offense was the story. Lovett, one of the top wide receivers in the state a year ago while playing at Belleville West before transferring to East St. Louis, has joined a group of wide receivers as good as any in the Midwest.
The Flyers’ talented foursome of Lawaun Powell, Antonio Johnson, Keantez Lewis and Lovett combined for 16 receptions for over 400 yards against a shellshocked Panthers secondary.
Lovett led the way with four catches for 186 yards.
“The transition to East St. Louis has been very smooth,” Lovett said. “The coaching staff has been great. They just want me to work hard every day and make plays.”
Loading up the box in an effort to hold down East St. Louis senior running back DaMonta Witherspoon, the Panthers (3-4, 1-3) were successful. Witherspoon scored twice on runs of 4 and 9 yards, but finished the day with only 28 yards on 13 carries.
But Macon and his receivers made up for it.
“They were loading up in the box to take away the run ... or trying too,” Macon said. “We knew we could take advantage of them with the passing game on the perimeter.
“We have a lot of guys who catch the football then make plays after they do.. Dominic can do all three things. He can get deep, he can catch the short pass then make a big play and he can run with the football and on special teams.”
Lovett went deep early, hauling in a 68-yard strike for a touchdown in the first quarter to give the Flyers the lead for good.
O’Fallon junior Ian Wagner cut the lead to 7-3 with just over three minutes left in the first quarter. First-year Panthers coach Byron Gettis had to like what he saw from his team in the opening period, which ended with the Flyers holding the four-point margin.
It didn’t stay that way long.
“We had a game plan coming in,” a subdued Gettis said. “East St. Louis has a lot of talent and speed on the perimeter and they showed it today.”
Witherspoon scored on a 4-yard run to start the second quarter and Macon connected on scoring plays of 35 yards to Lewis and 73 yards to Lovett as the Flyers lead grew to 27-3.
“Dominic had a pretty good ball game in all areas today,” Flyers coach Darren Sunkett said. “I thought the guys played well. All we have to do is play smart.”
Witherspoon added his 9-yard score and Macon found Antonio Johnson on a 60-yard scoring play late in the third quarter.
Lovett then brought the crowd to its feet with his punt return to conclude the scoring.