EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. — The 2021 spring football season wraps up across Illinois with the majority of teams playing their final game of the season Friday night.
Unlike past years, there is no postseason for sports like football that aren’t considered low-risk for COVID-19 transmission. As a result, the final game of the season is still being played within each conference, but considered to be a playoff, or conference championship game.
Edwardsville (4-1) and East St. Louis (4-1) will square up for the Southwestern Conference championship game Friday. Edwardsville and East St. Louis met once this season already, with the Flyers winning 52-21 on April 2. The defeat was Edwardsville’s sole loss this season.
Edwardsville head football coach Matt Martin said the loss was an important learning experience at a crucial point in the season.
Since then, the Tigers have won two straight games, including a three-point win over O’Fallon Township on April 16.
Edwardsville senior running back Justin Johnson Jr. leads the conference with 16 touchdowns through five games, averaging roughly four touchdowns per game.
Martin said the Tigers’ roster was smaller for the first time in many years, with the season taking place in the spring. He added that this, along with a handful of injuries, have given underclassmen athletes the chance to step up into a new role on the varsity team.
Despite rolling with a new lineup, the Tigers haven’t wavered. This is also true for the Flyers.
East St. Louis sophomore running back Marquise Palmer leads the Flyers in scoring with eight touchdowns through five games. Oklahoma five-star commit, Luther Burden Jr., isn’t far behind with six touchdowns during his first season at East St. Louis.
Burden’s 554 receiving yards through four games leads all wide receivers in the conference.
East St. Louis’ only loss this season came to O’Fallon Township on April 10, snapping the Flyers’ 17-game win streak that dates back to 2019.
The Panthers were returning to the field following a two-week quarantine, with only one previous game under their belt.
The Flyers rebounded the following week with a 56-12 win over Belleville East.
The Belleville East Lancers (2-3) will face O’Fallon Township (2-1) in their final game of the season.
The Flyers will host the Tigers on Friday. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.