High School Football

East St. Louis will face major test against Simeon

East St. Louis coach Darren Sunkett loves a challenge. And each year for the past several seasons, the Flyers preseason schedule has been among the most difficult in the state.

The reason according to Sunkett is pretty simple. To make his football team better in the long run and to teach his players to meet challenges not only on the football field but in life.

In 2015, the Flyers will travel north to Chicago for their first challenge of the year on Saturday when they Chicago Public League and Class 8A state power Chicago Simeon at Gately Stadium beginning at 7 p.m.

The road trip is nothing new for the Flyers, who in three of the past four years have opened their season in North Gwinett (Ga.), Kansas City and Cincinnati. The Flyers are 0-3 in those trips.

Still, the Flyers keep looking for the toughest competition they can find.

“When you talk about Simeon, you are talking about one of the premier programs in the state. Year after year, their coaches seem to have them in the playoffs and last year they were a game away from playing for the state champioinship,’’ Sunkett said. “It’s about facing challenges and then meeting them. We feel that playing good football programs are challenges that prepare us for later in the season. Playing Simeon at Gately Stadium is one of those challenges.

“Simeon is a big, physical and athletic football team with guys on both sides of the football who can make game-breaking plays with every snap of the football. We need to be ready to play.”

Saturday’s game: East St. Louis (7-5 in 2014) at Chicago Simeon (11-2) at Gately Stadium, Chicago, 7 p.m.

Clash of the titans: Two of the most successful programs in the state, the Flyers and Wolverines both advanced deep into the playoffs a year ago. East St. Louis advanced to the quarterfinals in Class 6A, where it lost to Peoria Notre Dame. Simeon made it all the way to the Class 8A semifinals, where it lost to Homewood-Flossmoor.

East St. Louis players to watch: WR: Jeff Thomas (57 receptions, 1,132 yards, 16 TDs, 22 TDs total); QB Reyondous Estes (157-for 239, 1,784 yards, 20 TDs); LB James Knights (69 tackles); OL Tre’Vour Simms, OL: DeMarcus Watson, OL: Carlos Humphries; WR: Karon Randolph, WR: Raekwon Griffin, WR: Jermain Grissom, DB: Tyler Cook, DB: Stanley Green, DB: Demond Bell, SS: Ahmad Willis.

Simeon players to watch: OL Keevin Agee (6-3, 270) OL: Antonio Crosby ( 5-11, 215), LB; Dakota Turner (6-3, 220), QB; Demar Holmes (6-6, 240), OT/TE; Terrell Maclin-Dupree OL: (6-5, 310).

Contact reporter Dean Criddle at dcriddle@bnd.com