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Oliver McDowell refuses to pick a winner in today's Class 6A second-round football playoff game at Rock Island's Almquist Field.

You see, McDowell started his high school playing career at Rock Island and ended it at East St. Louis. So, he'll just be proud of both of his former schools.

"I can't root for either," McDowell said. "I have a ton of great friends and family in Rock Island and I have a ton of friends and family in East St. Louis. I'll just say I will be happy either way when it comes to the outcome."

McDowell is currently finishing his junior college career at Hutchinson Community College. He started his college career at Southern Illinois and played in all 11 games as a linebacker but decided to transfer to Hutchinson. He will graduate from there in December and is contemplating an offer from Grambling State University.

A standout running back and defensive back at Rocky, he left midway through his junior season. At East St. Louis he transitioned into a linebacker where he had 102 tackles and 13 quarterback sacks as a senior.

"I was supposed to transfer as a sophomore but it didn't happen," McDowell said. "I just needed to do something else and I really wanted to live with my dad. I have a lot of family down there and it was a good place for me.

"That doesn't mean it wasn't hard. I was leaving all my friends and a whole bunch of family. Thank goodness for social media because I can keep up with everyone."

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McDowell said there are some big differences in playing at Rocky and at ESL — both personally and as a team.

"When I went to East St. Louis I never thought I could be the player I am today," he said. "By moving to defense I learned so much from the coaches. They took me in and taught me so much.

"Overall, I just felt like there was a big difference in the coaches. They had a different way of doing things that I just can't explain. There was also a different feeling. At Rocky, we thought we could win games. At East St. Louis, we knew were going to win and our only question was by how many points. There was a different standard there."

McDowell also believes there is a 7- to 10-point advantage the Flyers have when they walk onto the field. "It's just a feeling we always had before the game started," he said.

While he won't make a prediction for today's game, he can give the Rocks a little bit of a scouting report to play East St. Louis.

"For the most part, the Rocks have to play with a high motor," he said. "They have to stick to the game plan. They need to come out with great energy and maintain that.

"I haven't seen (Rock Island) play this year and I have some former teammates playing (today) for East St. Louis. In the end, (the Rocks) have to remember it is high school and any team can play with any other team if they believe."

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