High school football: Cary-Grove shocks East St. Louis, winner class 6A

DEKALB — A Fox Valley legend was born last Saturday. Cary-Grove used his triple offense to disrupt East St. Louis and Luther Burden, the top team and top player in the state.

The victory was so sweet that Trojan back player Nick Hissong sat at the press conference after the match with a big smile on his face, despite having a torn ACL in one of the last games.

Hissong (32, carries, 224 yards, 2 TDs) and quarterback Jameson Sheehan (20 carries, 104 yards, 3 TDs) were the offensive stars in Cary-Grove’s 37-36 victory over the Flyers in the Class 6A state title game Saturday at Huskie Stadium.

East St. Louis’ powerful offensive had the ball in Cary-Grove’s territory at the last minute. Flyers quarterback Robert “Pops” Battle, a sophomore, was trying to make something happen, but his throw ended up in the hands of Trojan senior Noah Riley, usually a tight end. Riley’s interception sealed the victory.

“It was the only defensive game I was actually involved in,” Riley said. “The coach told me to cover the Burden and follow him wherever he goes.”

Burden had six catches for 106 yards and two touchdowns and returned a kickoff for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter to pull East St. Louis (11-3) within one. He was as dangerous as advertised.

“He exceeded all expectations I had,” said Cary-Grove linebacker Toby Splitt. “He is very fast, physically and he moves very well.”

Cary Grove's Nicholas Hissong (34) breaks a race for a big match against East St.  Louis.

Cary Grove’s Nicholas Hissong (34) breaks a race for a big match against East St. Louis.
Allen Cunningham / For the Sun-Times

The Flyers’ two other losses this season came to nationally ranked state teams. They were not significantly challenged by any team in Illinois before the title fight.

“I would take our kids everywhere any day,” said Cary-Grove coach Brad Seaburg. “The amount of competitiveness and gravel is just amazing. Sometimes the ball bounces your way. We were just lucky at the last ball possession that the ball bounced our way.”

Each team scored five touchdowns, but the Flyers do not kick extra points. They failed on two two-point conversions.

“I just hope someone up north beats these guys by next year so we don’t have to see the triple opportunity again,” East St. joked. Louis coach Darren Sunkett.

It is the third state title for Cary-Grove (14-0), which also won Class 6A in 2009 and 2018.

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