Powerful East St. Louis ends Glenbard East's dream season
For 10 games this fall Glenbard East was an unbeatable force on its way to the best football season in program history.
But in the second round of the Class 7A playoffs on Saturday, the Rams were finally stopped by one of the premier high school programs in Illinois.
Backed by a perfect first half by quarterback Tyler Macon, East St. Louis jumped out to a big early lead and never looked back in a 56-14 victory in Lombard. The Flyers, who have captured eight state championships since 1979, advance to face Mt. Carmel in the quarterfinals.
"They just beat us," Glenbard East coach John Walters said. "They are a load; they are a very good football team. They are big, physical and athletic, and the team that is able to knock them off, if there is one, would have to match those three facets of the game."
Macon completed all 11 passes for 281 yards and 5 touchdowns in the first two quarters, including a 99-yard strike to Antonio Johnson that made the score 28-7 early in the second quarter. He then closed out the half with another TD pass to Johnson and a 21-yard scoring connection with Keontez Lewis. The sophomore finished 12 of 13 for 308 yards.
"Our coaches put us in position and we just have to go out and execute," Macon said. "I've got trust in my brothers. It's all about trust."
DeMonta Witherspoon totaled 151 rushing yards on 11 carries and caught a 44-yard touchdown pass while Treven Swingler added a pair of rushing scores for the Flyers, who had nearly 500 yards of total offense by halftime. Lawaun Powell also returned an interception 50 yards to the end zone.
East St. Louis (9-2) has scored 267 points over its past four games. It hasn't lost to an Illinois team this season.
"It starts with our offensive line," Witherspoon said. "I think we have the best offensive line in the state. And then we have the wide receivers and two good running backs and a quarterback who can run and throw. We can do anything we want on offense and we have a defense that can make big plays, which you saw today."
The Rams took their lone lead of the game midway through the first quarter when wide receiver Deon Cook made a diving 18-yard reception off a pass from Bret Bushka. The senior quarterback, who entered the contest with 26 touchdown passes, later found Jeremy Johnson for a 5-yard score in the fourth quarter.
"They were big and fast," Bushka said. "They were not overrated at all; they can play and they were ready for us. But overall, this season has definitely been something to be proud of. Obviously, I don't like the feeling I have now, but in a couple of weeks or a couple of months, we will realize that we did something special at Glenbard East and made history while we were doing that."
That final touchdown pass from Bushka to Johnson was the 20th time that the senior friends had combined to put points on the board for the Rams this fall. Glenbard East, which was making its second appearance in the postseason, finished 10-1 while capturing an Upstate Eight Conference championship.
"They were a very talented team," Johnson said, "and you can't take that away from them. Things didn't go our way, but there is nothing really negative you can take away. Just look at the season we had. We conquered things that nobody ever imagined us doing.
"It was such a special season. For all we've done, I love these guys to death. If I could get just one more snap with these guys, I'd die to have another snap. That's how close we are."