After putting his Belleville West football team through its Wednesday afternoon workout, coach Cameron Pettus was asked about the Maroons opponent this week. That would be the East St. Louis Flyers.
Pettus answer was as you might expect.
“They are big, fast and athletic. They always are,’’ Pettus said. “Belleville West and East St. Louis is a great rivalry. We’re looking forward to playing in a game which has been going on for nearly 100 years.’’
Two of the four unbeaten teams in Southwestern Conference play, along with Belleville East and Edwardsville, the Flyers and Maroons will attempt to keep their winning ways going when they battle on the turf at West High School on Saturday beginning at 1 p.m.
And if the game is anything like the 29-28 thriller won a year ago by West, the expected large crowd is in for a treat as two of the more athletic teams in Southern Illinois staged an epic battle.
Both teams enter the contest with two-game winning streaks and are coming off impressive wins. The Flyers scored early and often in a 68-0 demolition of Granite City, while Belleville West got its high-powered offense back on track with a 43-7 win over Collinsville.
“The first two weeks of the season we played two very good football teams in Normal and Normal West, and while it was tough losing both of those game, I’ve really been pleased at how we’ve come back and played here the last couple of weeks,’’ Pettus said. “The kids could have gotten really down on themselves, but instead they’ve reacted the way we hoped they would. They’ve worked very hard. Beating O’Fallon a couple of weeks ago kind of gave them a boost and then last week we came back and played well against Collinsville on both sides of the ball.’’
East St. Louis coach Darren Sunkett declined comment on Saturday’s game.
SATURDAY’S GAME: East St. Louis (3-1, 1-0 SWC) at Belleville West (2-2, 1-0 SWC), 1 p.m.
LAST WEEK: East St. Louis defeated Granite City 68-0; Belleville West defeated Collinsville 43-7
RANKINGS: East St. Louis is ranked fourth in the Associated Press Class 7A state football poll and first in the News-Democrat Large School football poll; Belleville West is ranked third in the News-Democrat Large School Football poll.
LAST YEAR: Belleville West defeated East St. Louis 29-28
SCOUTING THE FLYERS: After stumbling a bit in week two, losing to the state’s No. 2 ranked Class 6A team Lombard-Montini, the Flyers have been unstoppable during the past two weeks, outscoring Alton and Granite City by a combined 124-0.
Junior quarterback Reyondus Estes remains a double threat. Although completing only 45 percent of his pass attempts (33 of 72), Estes has thrown for 570 yards and nine touchdowns while rushing for 364 yards and four scores.
Also showing signs of the form which his him ranked as one of the top junior wide receivers in the nation is Jeff Thomas. Drawing double coverage on almost every play, Thomas struggled a bit in games against Chicago Simeon and Montini, but he caught six passes for 170 yards and three touchdowns against Granite City. For the season, Thomas has 14 receptions for 233 yards and five scores.
If there has been a surprise, it may be the solid work in the backfield from running backs Kerion Chairs and Perez Hall Jr. Chairs has become a featured back with 355 yards on 55 attempts and two touchdowns. Hall has averaged nearly 9 yards per attempt and four touchdowns.
“They (East St. Louis) may not have the name running backs they’ve had in the past, but what I see when I watch the film is that they’ve got a couple fast, strong athletes back there who can run the football,’’ Pettus said.
The Flyers defense is led by junior linebacker James Knight, who has 46 tackles (37 solos) and an interception. East St. Louis allowed only 31 yards of total offense against Granite City last week.
SCOUTING THE MAROONS: Like East St. Louis, the Maroons have rebounded well after opening their 2015 season with losses to Normal Community and Normal West.
Led by excellent work of DeMarlo Nesbitt (36 tackles) and Ken Dixon (32 tackles), the Maroons have allowed only 19 points the past two weeks against O’Fallon and Collinsville. West also came alive on offense a week ago, scoring 43 points in a 43-7 win over the Kahoks.
The offense had been led by quarterback Logan Betz, who has completed 40 of 77 passes for 552 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Kristopher Davis has carried the ball 60 times for 391 yards and a pair of TDs. Jarrell Anderson has 139 yards rushing and has also caught 13 passes for 209 yards and a score.