The Columbia Eagles football team in southwestern Illinois defeated the Freeburg Midgets near downtown St. Louis Missouri in a Cahokia Conference game. BY CHRIS JOHNS, MAXPREPS
Just last year, the two programs met in the IHSA Class 6A semifinals, with the visiting Flyers blistering the Warriors 54-13. Now, the two teams will meet again — this time in the quarterfinals as sixth-seeded East St. Louis will host seventh-seeded Crete-Monee at 1 p.m. Saturday with a berth into the semifinals on the line. Warriors coach John Konecki is excited to face the Flyers again with a chance to move one step closer toward a state championship.
“They are a very storied program,” he said Wednesday morning. “They are very talented. Coach (Darren) Sunkett and his staff do a fantastic job. They have a great offensive line. They’re tremendously talented but, more importantly, they’re very well coached. The East St. Louis staff has their kids ready to play week in and week out. They play tremendously and that’s evident when watch them on film.” As far as any takeaways from last year’s game, Konecki said, “It’s hard to compare the two teams, because, obviously, personnel in high school changes. I think we both have a pretty good idea of what both teams want to do and who we are. They were as good as advertised last year. We’re just looking forward to the opportunity to play them on Saturday.”
East St. Louis coach Darren Sunkett did not return multiple messages from the BND for this story. Both teams enter the game red hot, with East St. Louis on an eight-game winning streak and Crete-Monee having won nine-straight. The Flyers’ closest contest during this run was a 26-7 win against Edwardsville; otherwise, they’ve been obliterating teams, including 71-0 and 40-0 wins in the playoffs. Meanwhile, some key early injuries contributed to the Warriors’ 0-2 start. Since healthy, Konecki’s club has played terrific football, including victories over Joliet Catholic (ranked No. 1 in Class 4A), Kankakee (ranked No. 1 in 5A) and Chicago Simeon (seeded No. 2 in 6A) in last weekend’s second round.
“We’ve had to play some really good football teams to get to this place,” Konecki said. “We had some injuries early on and we fought through that and the kids really persevered. We made some changes in positions, put guys in the right spot. We’ve been playing some really good football here the last couple weeks.” East St. Louis again features a high-powered offense led by junior quarterback Robert Battle, who has thrown from 1,635 yards and 20 touchdowns while rushing for another eight scores. Sophomore TaRyan Martin highlights a stout rushing attack with 946 yards and 15 touchdowns, while Jesse Watson leads a talented wide receiver corps with seven touchdowns. On defense, junior Dominic Dixon anchors the Flyers with 97 solo tackles and nine sacks while University of Illinois recruit Antwon Hayden has 81 total tackles. Not to forgotten is 6-7, 343-pound offensive lineman Miles McVay, who is committed to the University of Alabama.
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