Here’s a closer look at the two teams squaring off in the Class 6A title game.
Head coach: Brad Seaburg (109-20, 11 years)
Last State Title Game Appearance: 2018, won against Crete-Monee 35-13 (Class 6A)
The Path to State
• defeated Rockford East 42-8
• defeated Grayslake Central 55-27
• defeated Crystal Lake Central 42-21
• defeated Lake Forest 40-7
Nick Hissong, RB: Hissong simply flourishes in Cary-Grove’s offensive attack and he’s piling up both yardage and touchdowns at an epic rate. Defenses usually try to take away Hissong and they don’t really succeed in their quest.
Colin Desmet, LB: Cary-Grove has produced some very productive linebackers and Desmet certainly belongs on the list. Desmet has notched 140 tackles, and given the limited time Cary-Grove’s first string defense actually plays that number becomes even more impressive.
Drew Magel, RB: Magel does not have a heavy workload in the Cary-Grove offense, but when he does touch the football look out. With just 62 rushes on the season, Magel has scored 13 times and has ran for a 15 yard average per carry.
• Look out for Cary-Grove halftime adjustments because the Trojans have outscored opponents 171-7 in the third quarter.
• The Trojans have run for 4,511 yards this season, that alone is impressive, but when you consider they’ve done so just 473 carries and are averaging just under 10 yards per carry you see the dominance that the Cay-Grove rushing attack has unleashed on foes.
• Cary-Grove won every one of its postseason games to this point by enforcing the running clock.
East St. Louis (13-0)
Head coach: Darren Sunkett (234-72, 27 years)
Last State Title Game Appearance: 2019, won against Prairie Ridge 43-21 (Class 6A)
The Path to State
• defeated Riverside-Brookfield 66-0
• defeated Richards 54-0
• defeated Lemont 42-21
• defeated Crete-Monee 54-13
Luther Burden, WR: He’s called Touchdown Luther for a reason as the Missouri-bound Burden has a knack for electrifying his team by making impressive runs to pay dirt. In the semifinal round, Burden ran back two punts for scores, seemingly hemmed in on both instances.
Dominic Dixon, LB: Only a sophomore, Dixon has a relentless motor and seems to want to stick his head into every tackling opportunity that is provided to him.
Ta-Ryan Martin, RB: Since being installed as the regular running back, the freshman Martin appears to have the goods to be the next in a long line of exceptional offensive players for the Flyers.
• East St. Louis allowed a grand total of two points to the first seven Illinois-based opponents on its schedule. The Flyers first allowed an offensive touchdown to an Illinois foe in the quarterfinal round of the playoffs.
• The Flyers offensive line averages 6-foot-5 inches and 307 pounds. Four of the five lineman are returning from East St. Louis 2019 state championship squad.
• The two East St. Louis losses were to teams ranked nationally. Currently John Bosco (Calif.) is ranked No. 8 and IMG Academy is ranked 19th in the latest MaxPreps national rankings.
There’s a swagger about East St. Louis and it is deserved. It is an extremely talented football team that seemingly is able to flip the switch and go to a level that to date, Illinois opponents have not been able to match. East St. Louis isn’t flawless, but its ability to go the distance on every snap is a massive challenge for opponent’s defensive fronts.