East St. Louis Flyers fall just short of 10th state football championship

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Cary Grove High School spoiled the East St. Louis Flyers’ bid for a 10th state championship in the Illinois 6A title game on Saturday in DeKalb.

The Fox Valley Conference champion upset top-ranked East Side 37-36 and ran its record to a perfect 14-0.

Luther Burden III scored three touchdowns for the Flyers, including an 80-year kickoff return that brought East St. Louis to within a point of Cary Grove with 11 minutes, 37 seconds left in the game. But that was the end of the scoring.

The Flyers lost twice in 2021, both times to national powerhouses. Their first loss was to St. John Bosco of Bellflower, California. Then they fell to IMG Academy of Bradenton, Florida in the final week of the regular season.

In between, East St. Louis dominated Southwestern Conference competition before making a clean sweep of the playoff field through the state semifinals. In conference play, the Flyers outscored their opponents 298-2. East Side then scored 66 and 54 points respectively in shutout victories over Riverside and Oak Lawn in the first two rounds of the IHSA playoffs.

Lemont closed the differential to 21 points in the quarterfinal round before Crete Monee was defeated by East St. Louis in the semifinals 54-13.

East St. Louis was the defending state champion, having won it all in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted high school sports in 2020.

Saturday’s win clinched Cary Grove’s second title since 2018.

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