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East St. Louis beats Edwardsville to win Southwestern Conference football championship

Flyers capture eighth straight conference crown

EDWARDSVILLE, ILLINOIS – The visiting East St. Louis football team's defense was focused on stopping dynamic dual-threat Edwardsville quarterback Jake Curry on Friday night. 

It turns out the Flyers did just that in a pivotal moment late in the third quarter of their eventual 27-15 victory to secure their eighth straight Southwestern Conference championship.

The East St. Louis defense came up clutch when it stopped Curry just short of the goal line on a fourth-down run late in the third quarter while clinging to a 13-point lead. 

"That was big," Flyers coach Darren Sunkett said. "That was big. Our defense never quits."

Two plays and 99 yards later, East St. Louis was celebrating a TaRyan Martin's second touchdown run of the night and a commanding 19-0 lead.

That was a pivotal swing for the Flyers (6-2), ranked fourth in the SBLive Illinois Power 25 high school football rankings. Edwardsville (7-2), No. 15 in the Power 25, scored twice in the fourth quarter but it was too little and too late.

"We wanted to take (No.) 2 out of the game," Sunkett said of Curry, who is committed to Southern Illinois University. "We wanted to shut his legs down and force him to throw it. I think we did a pretty good job of that. We thought we were a little better than those guys up front and we could slow the run game down and get them in situations where we could pin our ears back and go."

The defense certainly did that. Senior defensive lineman Andrew Bownes and junior outside linebacker Keandre McClendon each recorded three sacks.

"It felt great for us, all of us playing together, playing as a team, coming together, talking, communicating," said senior linebacker Bryce Harrison, who was credited with 10 tackles and a sack. "It felt great."

Offensively, the Flyers leaned on their veteran quarterback Robert Battle and junior running backs Martin and Larevious Woods. 

Battle, a Lindenwood University commit, connected with John Daily for a 25-yard touchdown pass on fourth down midway through the second quarter to put the Flyers ahead 13-0. He finished with 163 yards passing. 

Martin had touchdown runs in the first and third quarters and finished with 130 yards rushing. Woods added 78 yards rushing and a late score in the fourth. 

"We were aiming for our eighth straight conference championship, so our guys knew they had a chip on their shoulder there," Sunkett said. "We were aiming for our 55th straight win in the conference without a loss. So we had a lot of goals that we wanted to keep accomplishing that the guys in the past had accomplished. So it's all about just keeping that tradition alive and these guys stepped up and did that."

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- Nate Latsch | | @SBLiveIL