After a tumultuous 2015 season marked most boldly by a teacher strike and a football season cut short, East St. Louis is on the verge of returning to the IHSA state championship for the first time since 2008. One of the individuals who has been a big part of the effort is senior quarterback Reyondous Estes.
Following that disappointing year, Estes and the Flyers refuse to come up short of their goal of making it back down to Champaign.
"For us to end early last year was a disappointment not only to the team, but to the city," Estes admitted. "We felt like this year with most of that team coming back, we had an opportunity to win a championship and put a trophy in the trophy case. We felt like if we attacked all summer and came back with a chip on our shoulders, we could come back and contend."
One of those returning players was arguably one of the most explosive offensive threats in the nation in receiver Jeff Thomas. Thomas and Estes have a bond that helps them connect on the field and make big plays regardless of the circumstances.
"All summer Jeff told me that he's got me, and I got him," Estes said. "As long as we stay on the same page, we can do anything. Even if it's 4th and 30, Jeff and I feel like we can get it done."
But the unsung hero of the Flyers might be their ground game. A pair of tough-running tailbacks have brought balance to the Flyers' offense (an offense that put up 60 points on Saturday), and have taken some of the burden off of Estes.
"With (Jigg) Brown and (Jarrell) Anderson back there, that dynamic duo, plus Jeff on the outside and me running, too, we have a lot of weapons," Estes said. It takes a lot of the load off my back. With guys like that and a big offensive line, we feel like we'll be straight."
Estes, a one time Western Michigan pledge, has been committed to Missouri for a few months now. The Tigers have seen their fair share of Flyers come through the program, but Illinois, who is looking to give their QB depth chart a major facelift, recently joined the mix with an offer
"Nothing's changed (with my commitment status)," Estes said. "I'm still solidly committed to Mizzou. I'm always excited to say I'm committed to the Tigers. It was a big offer I picked up the other day from Illinois, though, but I'm focused on the season and nothing else right now."
But the offer did give Estes something to think about. But it's not something he'll focus on too much until after the season wraps up.
"Once we try to reach our goals and win state, after that i feel like I can focus on other things," he said. "The last time we brought a championship home to the city was 2008. We need to keep our focus on that and accomplish our goal."