East St. Louis coach Darren Sunkett has seen his team overcome plenty of adversity this season, but the Flyers’ self-inflicted wounds were far too plentiful Saturday night.
Mount Carmel was good enough to make the Flyers pay for costly turnovers and penalties, ending East St. Louis’ dream of back-to-back state championships with a 21-18 win in a Class 7A quarterfinal at Gately Stadium.
“I don’t think it was what (Mount Carmel) did,” Sunkett said. “They made their stops, but we had some things going in the right direction and had some penalties at inopportune times. We were playing behind the chains a lot. There were unfortunate mistakes on our part.”
The loss is the first for East St. Louis (10-2) against an in-state team since 2015. Mount Carmel (9-3) advanced to take on Lake Zurich in the semifinals.
Trailing 21-12, the Flyers got within three on an 18-yard touchdown pass from Eric Johnson to Lawaun Powell, but just 2:37 remained.
After Mount Carmel recovered the ensuing onside kick, the Flyers committed a costly offside penalty on fourth and 2 to give the Caravan a first down on the East St. Louis 40-yard line with just 2:15 to go.
The Flyers got new life when Oliver McDowell pounced on a fumble at the Flyers’ 35 with 46 seconds left. Johnson, though, threw an incomplete pass and was then intercepted by Aristotle Nakos with 33 seconds to go to seal the Caravan victory.