Friendly rivalry extends on and off football field

By Ted Ward, @TedWard_DE

Football rivalries are intense in high school but the focus shifts drastically in college.

Junior linebacker Chase Allen, freshman defensive end Nate Sylvester of the Belleville East High School Lancers — and sophomore linebacker Markese Jackson from their high school’s arch rival East St. Louis Senior High School Flyers — are teammates at SIU.

Jackson said it used to be a rivalry, but it is behind them now.

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“We’re all teammates and we’re here to get the win every week,” Jackson said. “That’s the only thing that matters to us.”

Allen said the rivalry was intense because he never beat the Flyers until his senior year. That 17-14 game was in overtime at East St. Louis. 

The Flyers have an overall record of 777-227 and were a top-25 team in the Illinois High School Athletic Association poll from 1979 to 1995. Coach Darren Sunkett has led the team to the state playoffs every year since he started in 2001.

The Flyers have won seven Illinois state championships, the last in 2008. They have also won a national championship in 1985. 

“We’ve always had a target on our backs with teams attempting to knock us off,” Jackson said. “We’ve had some great teams, so everyone wants to be like us.”

Allen said he helped defensive line coach Austin Flyger recruit Sylvester from Belleville East. 

“I called him and talked about the university and when he came down for a visit I was able to hang out with him and his family,” Allen said. “I told him it’s a very humbling and growing experience and they treated us as men.”

Allen said there is still friendly rivalry between some of the high school opponents. 

“We have a few teammates that are all from the same conference so there’s a lot of trash talk between us,” Allen said.

Ted Ward can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @TedWard_DE

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