East St. Louis is generally considered the top team in the state, regardless of class.
The Flyers are led by Missouri recruit Luther Burden. The wide receiver is ranked as the fifth best player in the nation by 247Sports and the best receiver. He has 46 receptions this season for 742 yards and 12 touchdowns.
By comparison, St. Rita’s Kaleb Brown, the highest-rated player in the Chicago area, is 60th in the nation and ranked eighth at wide receiver.
East St. Louis quarterback Robert Battle, a sophomore, has thrown for more than 2,000 yards.
The Flyers lost to IMG Academy (Fla.) 49-8 last weekend in Mississippi. IMG is ranked second in the country by USA Today. East St. Louis’ other loss was to St. John Bosco (Calif.) in Week 3. St. John Bosco is USA Today’s No. 5 team.
East St. Louis appears to be playing in an entirely different stratosphere from the rest of the state. No other team in Illinois has even appeared on the national stage.
Class 6A teams looking for a sliver of hope could point to the fact that the Flyers haven’t been tested at all in-state and were basically blown out against the two national powers. East St. Louis’ five Illinois opponents are a combined 14-30.
Class 6A favorite: East St. Louis, which hilariously has the four seed. That gives the Flyers a rather challenging road to the title game, possibly facing Richards, Lemont and St. Ignatius. Depending on how everything shakes out East St. Louis could play at Lemont and at St. Ignatius, which would give local fans a chance to check out the state’s best team.
Top contender: Cary-Grove. It’s a little tempting to put St. Ignatius in this spot. The Wolfpack did beat Mount Carmel 27-0. But it’s important to remember that St. Ignatius has never won a playoff game. Just snagging two wins would be a significant accomplishment for the program.
Bracket buster: Lake Forest. This was an easy pick. The Scouts gave Warren everything it could handle in Week 9, losing 18-14 in Gurnee. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Lake Forest upset Cary-Grove in the semifinals.
Best first round game: Belvidere North vs. Grayslake Central may be the closest game, based on season results. But Simeon at Richards might be the most interesting first round clash. The Bulldogs have quietly put together a really solid season and are heavy favorites to win at home. It’s always fun when Simeon plays in the south suburbs and it would be a major shot in the arm for Public League football if the Wolverines could give Richards a real test.
Toughest path to title game: Lemont, the top seed in the south bracket, could face an interesting Rock Island team in the second round and would have to beat mighty East St. Louis and St. Ignatius just to get to DeKalb.
Class 6A pairings
#16 Rockford East (5-4) at #1 Cary-Grove (9-0), Fri. 7
#9 Grayslake Central (7-2) at #8 Belvidere North (7-2), Fri. 7
#13 Mather (6-3) at #4 Deerfield (8-1), Fri. 7
#12 Crystal Lake Central (6-3) vs. #5 Amundsen (8-1) at Winnemac, Sat. 1
#15 Lakes (5-4) at #2 Wauconda (9-0), Fri. 7
#10 Vernon Hills (7-2) at #7 Prairie Ridge (7-2), Fri. 7
#14 Crystal Lake South (5-4) at #3 Harlem (8-1), Sat. 7
#11 Antioch (6-3) at #6 Lake Forest (7-2), Fri. 7
#16 Kennedy (5-3) at #1 Lemont (9-0), Fri. 7
#9 Springfield (6-3) at #8 Rock Island (6-3), Fri. 7:30
#13 Riverside-Brookfield (5-4) at #4 East St. Louis (7-2), Sat. 3
#12 Simeon (5-4) at #5 Richards (7-2), Fri. 6:30
#15 Bremen (5-4) at #2 St. Ignatius (8-1), Fri. 7
#10 Glenwood (6-3) at #7 Crete-Monee (6-3), Sat. 1
#14 Champaign Centennial (5-4) vs. #3 Kenwood (8-1) at Lane, Sat. 2
#11 Normal West (6-3) at #6 Washington, IL (7-2), Fri. 7
Class 6A predictions
Cary-Grove d. Rockford East
Belvidere North d. Grayslake Central
Deerfield d. Mather
Crystal Lake Central d. Amundsen
Wauconda d. Lakes
Prairie Ridge d. Vernon Hills
Harlem d. Crystal Lake South
Lake Forest d. Antioch
Lemont d. Kennedy
Rock Island d. Springfield
East St. Louis d. Riverside-Brookfield
Richards d. Simeon
St. Ignatius d. Bremen
Crete-Monee d. Glenwood
Kenwood d. Champaign Centennial
Washington d. Normal West
Cary-Grove d. Belvidere North
Deerfield d. Crystal Lake Central
Wauconda d. Prairie Ridge
Lake Forest d. Harlem
Lemont d. Rock Island
East St. Louis d. Richards
St. Ignatius d. Crete-Monee
Washington d. Kenwood
Cary-Grove d. Deerfield
Lake Forest d. Wauconda
East St. Louis d. Lemont
St. Ignatius d. Washington
Cary-Grove d. Lake Forest
East St. Louis d. St. Ignatius
East St. Louis d. Cary-Grove