Thursday, May 22, 2008

2008 Team to Watch: East St. Louis continues to look ahead to the 2008 high school football season. We're still a couple months away from the start of our expanded preseason national rankings release, but it's not too soon to whet your appetite with mini-previews of teams that are likely to figure very prominently on the national scene this season.

East St. Louis is among the 11 out-of-state teams traveling to Ohio for this year's Kirk Herbstreit Classic in Cincinnati and Canton. The Flyers hope a win over an Ohio stalwart will help recapture their once proud reputation as a national prep football power.

Before looking ahead to 2008, a quick history lesson on East St. Louis football: Under legendary coach Bob Shannon, the Flyers won six state championships between 1979 and 1991. USA Today ranked the team No. 1 to close the 1985 season and it finished No. 2 in the final 1984 USA Today poll and No. 2 in the final 1989 National Prep Poll. Overall, East St. Louis' alumni roll of famous athletes is among the best anywhere: Brian Cox (NFL), Jackie Joyner-Kersee (Olympics), Laphonso Ellis (NBA), Darius Miles (NBA), Kellen Winslow (NFL) and Dana Howard (NFL).

Now, on to the present, where current coach Darren Sunkett has 15 starters returning. They include a pair of blue chip recruits.

Receiver/defensive back Terry Hawthorne (6-1, 190) is an exciting two-way player. He caught 62 passes for nearly 1,100 yards and 15 touchdowns as a junior. Fellow WR/DB Kraig Appleton (6-3, 200) had 50 receptions for 980 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Delivering them the football will again be junior Detchauz Wray (6-0, 180), who totaled more than 2,000 passing yards and 34 touchdowns in his rookie campaign. Linebacker Demond Hunt (6-0, 190) is back to lead the defense after earning all-league recognition with 95 tackles as a sophomore.

Sophomore RB Vincent Arterbridge (6-1, 210) could be a superstar of the future

East St. Louis (Ill.)
Coach: Darren Sunkett (69-21, 8 years at East St. Louis, 103-32, 12 years overall)

2007: 11-2, not ranked

Top returning players: WR/DB Terry Hawthorne (6-1, 190, 1,100 receiving yards, 15 TDs); WR/DB Kraig Appleton (6-3, 200, 980 receiving yards, 14 TDs); DB Tommie Hopkins (6-0, 180, 50 tackles, 1 kick return for TD)

Key losses: OL Brandon Harold (Kansas State)

All systems go: Speed. Eight players run the 40 in 4.5 seconds or faster

Questions must be answered: No recent experience in state championship game

Toughest games: vs. Huber Heights, Ohio, Wayne at Paul Brown Stadium (Aug. 31), vs. St. John's, D.C. (Sept. 6)

Forbes Report Scouting Video: Terry Hawthorne vs. Wheaton Warrenville South - 2007

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