Even when they were down by three points early in the fourth quarter, the East St. Louis Flyers felt like the game’s outcome was their’s to determine.
It might have been.But penalties and turnovers cost the Flyers whatever opportunities they may have created for themselves and, ultimately, cost them a win over Lombard Montini Catholic.
The Broncos defeated East St. Louis 24-14 in the title bout of the City of Champions Classic on Saturday at Clyde Jordan Stadium.
"Everything that happened tonight was a self-inflicted wound," said East St. Louis coach Darren Sunkett. "We'd get something positive going then create a setback on our own. That's unacceptable. You won't win a lot of ball games when you turn the ball over (five) times."
The game matched two of the proudest traditions in Illinois high school football. Montini is ranked No. 2 on the Class 6A state-wide poll; East St. Louis is No. 3 in 7A.
For the game, Montini outgained East Side 323 yards to 294.
Montini opened a 17-7 lead after quarterback Justin Blake broke a 41-yard touchdown run. But the Flyers responded with a drive deep into Broncos' territory.
On second-and-goal at the Montini 5-yard line, East St. Louis quarterback Rayondus Estes was intercepted in the end zone by Mitchell West to kill the drive.
"You keep telling your kids things like that will happen if you just stay the course," said Montini coach Chris Andriano. "That was a huge play and it didn't surprise me that Mitchell made it."
The Flyers again managed to narrow the Montini lead to 17-14 on a 25-yard run by Perez Hall.
East St. Louis had Montini pinned on second-and-22, but a 4-yard run by Blake turned into a 19-yard gain when the Flyers were flagged on a late hit. Montini converted on fourth-and-4 and scored with a touchdown run by Prince Walker.
"All of the sudden we were down 24-14 and that changed the whole complexion of the ball game,” Sunkett said.
For Montini, Blake completed 16 passes for 136 yards. He also led all ball carriers with 95 yards on 20 attempts. Walker picked up 91 yards on 21 carries.
For East St. Louis, Estes was held to just 57 yards passing and was intercepted three times. Hall had 89 yards on 12 carries and Kerrion Chairs rushed 69 yards on 14 attempts. Junior wide receiver Jeff Thomas was held to three catches for 17 yards.
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"It's definitely a let down and definitely a set back. We'll see the true character of this team when we see how they respond to this loss. That's what I want to see next week. I want to see how our quarterback responds and how his teammates respond."
East St. Louis (1-1) begins Southwestern Conference play Friday at Alton. Montini (2-0) faces Chicago Catholic League rival Chicago St. Rita.